A Message from Mr. Vandemark 1-17-2020

Greetings Marksmen Families!

Painting was the last thing I expected to be doing on a recent birthday. And yet there I was, holding a dripping, shaking paintbrush beside Mrs. Vandemark and my two kids. Year 51 was supposed to be a year filled with adventure and freedom. The last of our kids was soon leaving the house, with Mrs. Vandemark and I heading into our empty-nest years. I thought this new season would be as fun and predictable as one of those beautiful adult coloring books. Twenty-eight years of marriage had helped life take shape, so all we had to do now was just add color. Yet nothing looked like I thought it would on this 51st birthday. Instead of planning for the future, I was trying to figure out how we’d ever glue the shattered pieces of our family back together again after the sudden loss of a close, dear family member. Instead of dreaming, I felt like I was stuck in a nightmare. One where I opened the coloring book and someone had erased all the beautifully drawn lines.

There was nothing but white pages. Empty spaces. Endless possibilities of fear and failure. Metaphorically speaking, my life was now a blank canvas. And so, my wife suggested - no, actually she demanded — we get some blank canvases and paint on my birthday. I painted a boat. The rest of the family painted animals. And while my wife was right - it was therapeutic in many ways - it was also a terrifyingly vulnerable experience. To say I didn’t want to paint that day is an extreme understatement. I am more of a stick figure artist kind of guy. To overcome the terrifying angst of the blank canvas meant I would forever have more compassion on other artists. You better believe as I placed the first blue and gray strokes onto the white emptiness before me, “not good enough” was pulsing through my head in almost deafening tones. Perfection mocked my boat. The bow was too high, the details too elementary, the reflection on the water too abrupt, and the back of the boat too off-center. Disappointment demanded I hyper-focus on what didn’t look quite right.

I forced myself to send a picture of my boat to at least 10 friends. With each text I sent, I slowly made peace with my painting’s imperfections. Not for validation but rather confirmation that I could see the imperfections in my painting but not deem it worthless. I could see the imperfections in me and not deem myself worthless. It was an act of self-compassion. We must get to this place of self-compassion if we ever hope to have true, deep compassion for others. Disappointment begs us to be secretly disgusted with everything and everyone who has gaps, everything and everyone who also wrestles with the “not good enough” script. But what if, instead of being so epically disappointed with everyone, we saw in them the need for compassion?

I absolutely love that word compassion. Our Morse Marksmen know it is my favorite Morse virtue. Compassion is being aware that all of us fear the imperfections deeply carved into ourselves. We all cover up. And then we all get stripped bare when the wins become losses. And who do we want standing near us in those moments dripping with disappointment and saturated with sorrow? I can assure you it isn’t people who don’t know the whole story, draped in gold-plated pride with mouths eager to spill out commentary, “Here’s what you did wrong. I would never have allowed myself to get in this position. If only you would have …”

Yet we must connect with others and bring them light and life with the brush strokes of compassion. And the only way to gain more of this compassion is to pick up a paintbrush and sit in the seat of our own suffering. We find life-giving purpose and meaning when we take our painful experiences and comfort others. Have you walked through an unexpected season of darkness and suffering? Those seasons aren’t for nothing. Pick up the paintbrush. Put some paint on the emptiness. Color-correct your perspective. Forget the cravings for comfort zones. Trade your comfort for compassion. Get wet with paint. Put the brush to the canvas. Declare yourself a painter. And when someone steals all the lines from

your coloring book, determine to color the world anyhow with the same generous compassion every day. You are walking the way of an artist. You are simply showing up with compassion. So let’s support one another — with the words we speak, the tone we use and the actions we take. Go ahead, surprise others with your kindness. Because, after all, love is kind…

Now let me follow with the “Best Thing(s) Mr. V Saw At Morse This Week”:

Ø Outside under the awning, right at the end of dismissal Thursday, as nasty weather was impending, all of the car line was complete and we as adults were laying odds on school being in session on Friday. As we were chatting, a couple of 5th grade girls came from the bus lane, each holding the hand of a 1st grade student, who had tears and was visibly upset. The 5th grade girls escorting the younger one were very calm, on the other hand, and we could see them leaning down, reassuring her as they walked her to us. What occurred was the little girl daily meets her older sister on the bus each day and on this day, her sister was not present. Which meant, she would not only ride the bus by herself – not something she had ever done – as well as getting off the bus stop and walking solo to her home. Those 5th grade girls made the conscious decision to hold the bus up, walk her to some adults, and figure it out. Did not have to, chose to. Holding the little girl’s hand gave her peace and comfort. Just another example of our older Marksmen paying it forward to our younger Marksmen. Well-done good and faithful servants! By the way…the older sister?! She was in Art Club!

We are student centered and community strong – we are Morse!


Advocating for Students,

 Steve Vandemark, principal

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