Thursday, June 9, 2022

God Bless the Broken Road That Led Us All to School

Take a close look at this picture. Does it look familiar? Some of you may think that it’s a picture of Kendra Road in Fruitport. The resemblance is remarkable, but you’ll notice there are actually no potholes in the picture.

 This is Rome’s famous Via Appia, the Appian Way.)  built in 312 BC. It stretches more than 350 miles, and millions of tourist to Italy still use it for hiking, cycling, and horseback riding. It was so well-traveled by the time of Christ that miles of it already had grooves worn in the stones from the cartwheels pounding it through the centuries. (see photo below)

For 23 years, parents and students driving Kendra Road to school have felt like ancient travelers on the Appian Way. Thousands of dollars have been spent on tires, rims, alignments, and other repairs caused by the patchwork of potholes on the road Calvary calls home. Only those who travel Kendra daily know that this is not an exaggeration. This observation is not meant as a complaint to the fine road-workers of Fruitport Township. The fault is not theirs but rather the road itself.

You see, unlike the Appian Way of ancient Rome, Kendra Road never had a proper foundation. We’ve learned from locals, that Kendra Road began as a two track after I-96 went through in the 1960’s.  Over the years, it evolved into a two-lane dirt road. Eventually it was frosted with some pavement, but with the turn of the century came of the school, the mall, Stillwater Springs, and other developments, and the traffic has exceeded the pavement’s capacity. So we thank the road workers who have tried their best to keep up the thousands of potholes through the years, but we are even more thankful for the following announcement:

We have been informed that KENDRA ROAD IS GETTING PROPERLY PAVED THIS SUMMER. That’s right. When we return to classes in the fall, all parents and drivers will have a smooth road as they approach the school. Because Kendra is classified as a local road (rather than “primary”), this work does come at some cost to the school and Kendra residents. We are launching a summer fundraising drive to raise $35,000. About half of that amount is the CCS assessment for the new road. 

The remaining needed funds are for some other timely projects. We hope to hire a bonded tree service to clear away most of the highway brush and 20-year growth in front of the school (between Kendra and I-96). We have been given permission to clear back the foliage that blocks the view of CCS along the fence line.  Unlike the Kendra pavement, all of the this tree-service cost falls to the school. But imagine what Calvary will look like in the fall—a new road and a clear view to the thousands of cars that pass us every day in the commute on eastbound and westbound I-96.

We also hope to make about $10,000 worth of inside improvements to the building that include a new Teacher Break Room (they have not had a Break Room since 2019. Look for additional information about this year-end campaign. 

In the meantime enjoy this video about the broken road that has lead us to Calvary all these years. It may be the last time you see Muskegon County's version of the Appian Way.

Tom Kapanka

God Bless The Broken Road That Led Us All To School

Friday, May 27, 2022

Between Reminiscence and Anticipation: Written to the Class of 2022 After Senior Trip

Dear CCS Class of 2022,

“There’s got to be a morning after…” I hope you all got a good night's sleep last night and woke up (eventually) to enjoy the familiar surroundings of home. Sometimes after big events, the morning after has a sort of empty whisper like when you hold a seashell to your ear. I’m writing you all this collective note on the morning after Senior Trip 2022 because I woke up to a silent house which made me miss you all. I get this feeling every year around graduation, but this year it prompted me to sit down and write you this note.
The first time Mrs. Kapanka and I took a Senior Class to Orlando was 1988. If that sounds like ancient history, I understand, but please know that to us... it does not seem so long ago. (Likewise for Mrs. Price who graduated from high school that same year.) The Class of '88 I'm referring to was from our previous school in Iowa where we served for eighteen years. We still keep in touch with many of those students (who are now in their fifties). That class did something spontaneously on their last night of Senior Trip that you guys also did: they stayed up all night reminiscing.

The ability to reminisce is a gift. Not all “families” do it. Reminiscing is what becomes of conversations stretched through time—long stretches of time. It happens in rare moments when you realize that time does not pass, it gathers; it is not spent but shared, and while it is not healthy to “live in the past” it is very good now and then to take a backward glance. . . just long enough to say “I remember the us that was.” Doing so helps you remember that God began shaping the “you” you’re becoming before you even knew it was happening.
You did something else Wednesday night in that brief snapshot of time (in those hours before we headed for the airport at 3:30AM): you spoke of important things in the present —beliefs, questions, uncertainties, and confidences—things that will set the direction for your futures; things that will be the backdrop of your reminiscing thirty years from now. How do I know this? Because that Class of ‘88 had a reunion at our former school three weeks ago. (We were not able to attend but saw photos on Facebook.) I’m confident that, Lord willing, your class will do the same in 2052. Hard to imagine, isn't it? Don't let it frighten you. The passing of time with friends and family is a wonderful thing.Watching young people become adults is one of the perks of working for 42 consecutive years in two K-12 schools like Calvary. Just think some of you had Mrs. K in preschool fourteen years ago, and here you are "all grown up" with so much to look forward to.

You asked us Wednesday night who our favorite class was, which is almost as impossible to answer as when parents are asked to disclose their favorite child… My guess is many others from other Senior Trips may be reading this, and they will remember moments unique to their experience. The very thought of them brings a smile the way an old photograph found unexpectedly can make you laugh in a room by yourself..  

I will say this: we can’t imagine having been with a better group than you guys. We love the way you were not a group of smaller groups; we love the way that everyone—no matter how new to the class—was included; we love the way you show patience when it’s needed; we love the thought that you guys will care about each other well beyond next week's ceremony; we love the diversity of the dreams you hold and doubts you share and your apprehension of the fine line between dreams and doubts when you feel alone. We love the unspoken intent to never let any of your friends feel isolated in the years to come. The whole week was fun, but that last night of listening as you guys spoke from your hearts was the most rewarding and memorable event of this trip.
Mrs. K and I have “hugged” forty-one Senior Classes goodbye since our K-12 teaching careers began in 1982. We have bookmarks of recollection that help us remember each class (and individuals in each class). I can assure you of this… we will not forget your class and we will not need a bookmark, because your class is a bookend, holding a long row of senior trips in place. We didn’t speak of it when we were in Orlando, but you guys will always be remembered as our last Senior Trip. Not as a school, but as a trip with the two of us along. Thank you for the many kindnesses you showed when least expected.

The first line of this note is the title of a song from my high school days. I'll close this note with two more from the same era. (If Zander were riding shotgun right now he’d play them for us): The first is a song called “Anticipation” from 1971, which declared “These are the good ol’ days…” and indeed they are. Remember that as you enjoy this summer before turning the page from the CCS years to whatever lies ahead. The other song is a favorite of mine called "Bookends," which is perfect for these thoughts. I used it in this montage to help you remember that life is never lived only in the present… it is a beautiful blend of past and future... reminiscence and anticipation, grandparents and those yet to be born, experience and hope. 
You are never alone.
We love you!
Mr. K
Press Arrow to Play

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Worldview Shapes the Formative Years

Today, we had more than 50 parents and prospective students in our rotunda as visiting students were paired up with someone from the class they were visiting. It was a wonderful sight to see. Most of these inquiring families will also be our guests at this evening's Spring Carnival. We hope you can all make it to that event to meet some of them.. 

We are living in interesting times, and I'd like to remind all of us why the formative years in your students' lives are so important.

Museum of The Bible, Washington, DC
This past week, I was at a Biblical Worldview Conference at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC. Scores of other K-12 Christian school administrators were there from across the country. CCS and these other schools consider teaching from a Biblical perspective (worldview) a crucial part of our mission. In all subjects and circumstances, God's Word is “a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.”(Ps119:105) Only in that light can we see the answers to the questions of life that give a meaningful context for all subjects.

Simply put, our worldview is the lens through which we interpret the past, present, and future of the world in which we live. 

II Timothy 3:13-17 warns believers that the time will come when social “norms” and public opinion will go from bad to worse, and manipulating deceivers will lead many down false and dangerous paths. Friends, we are living in such a time. The same passage, however, encourages us to train up believers from childhood in the TRUTH of God’s Word and the way to wisdom and salvation in Christ Jesus. The short passage concludes by reminding us that  "all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

At CCS, the home and school are a team working from the same playbook and game-plan. The many Evangelical churches in our school family sometimes summarized our shared Biblical worldview in three words: “Creation...Fall… and Redemption. That outline covers origins, including God’s original relationship with his creation; man’s willful breaking of that relationship and the resultingbrokenness” of the world, and then through Christ, a restored relationship (and eventually a “new heaven and earth”). We also pay heed to what Jesus called the two greatest commandments: Love God (vertical relationship) and love your neighbor as yourself (horizontal relationships) .(Matthew 22:36-40)

With those thoughts in mind, read Luke 6:39-40, where Jesus is talking about the influence of teachers over students and asks, “Can the blind lead the blind?” i.e. Can a person unable to see God’s role in life open other’s eyes to TRUTH? Can those who credit a godless existence to “random chance” give meaningful answers to the questions of life? How can we know that the same "light" is guiding your student(s) down the same "path"? 

Luke 6:40 further reminds us that teachers should be worthy of being "looked up to" because in the end  their students will become like them. In other words, regardless of the subject, worldviews are “caught” more than “taught,” and education should never be a game of “blind-man’s-bluff” for students and “keep-away” for parents.

When I was a kid, the nation’s largest bus-line commercials ended with a jingle: Go Greyhound, and leave the driving to us. Sadly, when it comes to what some schools are teaching kids these days, more and more school boards and government officials are telling parents, “Stay home, and leave the worldview to us.”  In fact, just yesterday, President Biden told a national gathering of top teachers that the students they lead "are not someone else's, they're OUR children.... they’re like yours when they’re in the classroom.”

It is one thing for government schools to feign neutrality on religion; it’s another thing for them to oppose traditional views of the Church and to zealously (religiously?) advance contrary views to our children on topics like: identity, life, purpose, gender, sex, marriage, family, right and wrong, law enforcement, etc. I have friends and family who have tried to stem the tide of these contrary agendas in their local districts, and I do not doubt that their presence can be used by God if those adults can remain untainted, but when we consider the new social agenda being infused into the curriculum for children, how much tainted water in a well renders it risky to drink?   

We often speak of school days as the "formative years." of life, and it is true. Students are like clay in the potter's hands. Jeremiah 18:2-4 paints a beautiful picture of how God transforms "formative years" into a useful life. The K-12 years represent about 15,000 hours on a potter's wheel. Who's doing the forming? What is the intended outcome?  Imagine a partnership between the home and school that purposefully integrates learning with life, science with conscience, facts with faith, theory with wonder, and wonder with belief.  

Our nation is very divided on some very basic "facts of life." Never have so many been diametrically opposed to keeping God in his rightful place as Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend. In times like these, we are pleased to see  more and more parents choosing to partner with schools like CCS that share their values and teach from a Biblical worldview.

Monday, March 28, 2022

CCS Takes Top Two Trophies at 2022 Student Showcase!

Frauenthal Center For The Performing Arts is one of our state's most historic theaters. Each year it hosts the “High School Student Showcase” for the sixteen high schools in Muskegon County (and a few more beyond). It takes two nights of performances to get all the talent on and off that beautiful stage. At the end of the second night they announce the winners, including the two most coveted awards. One is for First Place "group" and the other is what they call the “Showstopper.” 

CCS has won 1st place on other occasions, 2nd place a few times, but this was the first year we took home both top trophies. (Each year the Student Showcase Program also highlights non-performing categories such as art, athletics, and academics.) 

Here is another interesting fact about the CCS students who performed this year, and it has been true of nearly all students who have ever performed in Showcase through the decades: they are also athletes. Claire Swanson plays volleyball and Bradley Richards and Kendon Sutherland and Josiah Jackson play basketball and other sports. Josiah also runs his own piano-tuning business. 

CCS is often compared to "The Little Engine That Could" because we often overcome achieve big school results in spite of being one of the smaller accredited K-12 programs in the state. When you are part of a high school that averages from 60 to 70 students, being well-rounded in many different outlets (including the three A: academics, arts, and athletics) is true of most of our students.

Monday, March 7, 2022

A Backward Glance at the Covid Years

Around 12:01 AM, Sunday, March 13, 2020, we will change our clocks to "spring ahead" for daylight-savings time. As we look forward to spring, that day may be a good time to take a backward glance at the past two years...

March 13, is the two-year anniversary of  the day we called a special assembly to inform the CCS students that all schools in the state were being ordered to close down for two weeks "to flatten the curve." The term was so new that we showed a video in the chapel to explain the theory behind it.  We will not complain here that the two weeks gradually morphed into two years. Nor will we rehash what the months of isolation and/or protocols were like. We will pause to remember the loved ones we lost during these two years, and then we'll thank God we're together again and those two years are behind us. 

The following timeline of video links is primarily for the sake of the 50 families who have come to CCS since the year the pandemic nearly closed down our school for good. Had our steadfast families not banded together "come what may" during those trying months...had we not stayed true to our tuition commitments...had we we not encouraged each other during those dark months... it is very likely that there would have been no CCS for us to return to in the fall of 2020. God is good!

So here is our "Thank you" to the families who were here that 2019-2020 school year; here is our "Glad you joined us" to the 50+ families who have joined the CCS family since that year, and here is a  "Welcome to Calvary" for the dozens of new families planning to join us in the fall. Please join me in this backward glance lest we forget...

1. I made this short video and sent it to our school family to provide a sense of "calm" on the very sad occasion of walking into an empty school on the Monday after the closure. The stones in the box had been written on by our high school at Retreat to mark the that year's theme: "Never Alone."

2. Below is the first "video update" we sent to our homes during the closure. We had been in distant-learning mode for one week, and the state state had just announced that none of the classwork we had already begun with our high school would count toward graduation requirements. I wanted to make it clear that the news did not apply to Calvary Christian Schools.

3. Eagle's Nest Preschool is an important part of our CCS program. Roughly half of each year's graduating class has been at Calvary since preschool. When schools shut down, figuring out a way to keep the preschool viable was very difficult, but Mrs. K and I began "filming" a little TV show in our basement called "Mrs. K's Cozy Little Cabin," and she kept teaching the regular lessons three times a week. Viewers from well beyond CCS began watching faithfully. I attempted to keep parents engaged by adding little "jokes" that the children could not read. 

4. The next video update was to soften the blow of the news that we were all expecting to hear that week: schools would remain closed indefinitely. I came to the empty building to make this video. 

5. All of Mrs. Kapanka's "Cozy Little Cabin" shows can be seen at this website. but I wanted to include this one here in which she discreetly teaches 4-year-olds about the letter Q and transitions from Quilt to QUARANTINE, a concept all of us were still struggling with at the time. In hindsight, it would be easy to forget the caution we were all exercising in those first weeks of the shutdown, and Mrs. K thought it was important to include a word that would typically not be introduced to this age group.

6. As some folks know from the archives of this "To Begin With" blog, I have dabbled in poetry NOW AND THEN. By April of the closure, cabin fever was beginning to set in. This was not only from the hours we spent in the basement "filming" the preschool show but ALSO from the lost rhythm of days, weekends, Sundays, etc. The evening news was beginning to concerns about mental health and the growing sense that nothing really mattered anymore. What an unthinkable situation for students. These words came to me on April 1, and I wanted to share them with students to remind them that EVERY DAY COUNTS....

7. Before I moved from the classroom to "administration," I used to teach college and high school speech and literature. Back around 1978, I became familiar with the three pieces of literature that I allude to in this "video chat" from my back yard. It was when the reality that we were unlikely to be returning to school began making people wonder what things would look like on the other side of the pandemic. 

8. There were many other videos shared in April and May, but we'll close with this one in which I was trying my best to say that someday this will all seem strange. (I did not know at the time that it would be a two year ordeal.).

I have posted these video clips (and those at the underlined links below) for the sake of the more than 50 families who are new to CCS since that spring semester (March-May) of 2020 when most of us were living somewhere between inexplicable caution and growing frustration. 

As things turned out, we had a parade on the last day of school and were the first high school in the state of Michigan to have our Commencement Ceremony on the original day it was schedule (albeit outdoors). It was in all the news sources

The next school year we were back in the building, and even though things were not quite normal, it was wonderful compared to the previous spring.  Four new "outdoor education pavilions," made the state-mandated protocols much easier to bear. 

Even so, the 2020-2021 school year was a difficult in many ways, which prompted a much needed "day away" at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex

By the time 2022 came, we were still reeling from the previous 3 semesters, but in taking this backward glance at the Covid-19 ordeal and protocols that now seem to be behind us, you might be thinking, "My goodness! You guys sure went through a lot just to keep school open and appealing to families." To which I and the teachers would say, "Yep... we sure did. It wasn't easy, but it was worth it!" 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Thanksgiving Thoughts 2021 from Mr. K

At Grace

it’s the little things
like putting in the extra leaf
and keeping window watch;
then taking covered dishes at the door;
and hugging through coats
that bring in winter’s air.
Staring fondly at the face
come furthest home;
laughing with the funny uncle
in the kitchen;
holding hands once large and small—
but ever more alike—
around the laden table;
and smiling at the changeless gaze
(framed on the far mantle)
of one not there to pray.
It’s the little things
that make Thanksgiving.
The tastes and smells
and long-awaited feast
at best are just
the garnish of the day.
It’s the enormity
of little things
providentially in place
that lumps our throats
and lifts our thoughts
…at grace.
©  2006 Tom Kapanka

I wrote these lines fifteen years ago in a time when my family and extended family used to gather for all-day Thanksgiving feasts with 20 to 30 under one roof. Those were good times, but even as I wrote these words in 2006, they were beginning to fade. The "families tree" grows, and the branches reach further and further making such gatherings more rare and more precious. Then came Covid which shook us all to our very roots.

Last year I put together this video to help cheer up the CCS family (nine months into the pandemic). Who would have guessed that 12 months later this holiday would still be clouded by that virus. It's quite possible that your celebration today, like ours, has fewer people around the table for one reason or another. Even so, let's lift our hearts and  "Thank God for This Thanksgiving Day!"


Lord, we thank you for Calvary Christian Schools. We thank you for meeting our needs through the years and for the hope of continued blessing for years to come. We thank you for the more than 120 homes in our school family, and for the many new families who joined us this fall. 
Praise God from Whom All Blessing Flow!

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Three Generations

It takes two generations 
 to bring along the third… 
for the echo of Truth is sometimes heard 
more clearly than the words first spoken. 
A cord of three strands is less likely broken 
than one or two, and equally true and strong 
is a chord of voices intent on passing along 
what matters most from age to age. 
The oldest voice gently leads 
and helps confirm that the Page 
from which the middle voice reads 
or shares each day is worth the ink 
and worthy indeed to make us think 
beyond our lifetime. 
Some say "it takes a village," 
but more often than is heard, 
it takes two generations 
to bring along the third. 
© 2007 / 2021 Tom Kapanka

Originally written for CCS Grandparent's Day 2007 with these remarks from 14 years ago.

Today was Grandparents Day at the school I oversee. It's a wonderful tradition each spring. We had over 300 guests registered to attend. They're not all "related" grandparents--some are close friends who fill the role for the day. These guests visited classes, had a "picnic" style lunch in the gymnasium and on the grounds, then watched the Elementary grades perform "Pinocchio." We began the day with a general assembly where I'm usually on the agenda for about ten minutes of "opening remarks."

Last night, I knew what I was going to say, but I woke up at 4:12 AM, scribbled down the lines above, and went back to bed. When I got up at 6:15, I read them again. To my surprise they still made sense when read with conversational meter. So this morning we printed the lines on narrow bookmarks to give to our grandparents and guests. As I was speaking about our school's mission, heads nodded with supportive understanding, etc.

I talked about a picture of a three-arched bridge that hangs in office and how those three strong arches symbolized the gist of the poem. But just as it came time to read these lines, I saw a man and wife sitting on the aisle who have gone through a life-changing trial as they've carried out this third- generational role for their grandchildren. While horseback riding with a granddaughter, my friend was thrown from his mount, breaking the same vertebrae as Christopher Reeve, resulting in the same paralysis and wheelchair. It’s been well over a year, but this grandfather has a marvelous testimony and the same smile I saw the day we met seven years ago.

I got a lump in my throat, but I don't think anyone noticed. I decided to pass out the bookmarks without my reading the poem... as if that was my plan all along. Maybe I could have read it; maybe not. It's not that the lines themselves are that "emotional," but in that moment they were too fresh in my mind to know if I could read them without getting misty-eyed. That's pathetic, I know, but it's hard enough to see through the bottom of my Varilux lenses when my eyes are clear. So why risk it? The older I get the more often I have such moments.

It was a great day. We have a choir and band concert tonight followed by what promises to be a sunny weekend.

Sunday evening follow-up: Having read some of the comments and after visiting with some of the grandparents (who commented about the bookmark at school), I want to say that just as Mother's Day does not evoke the same memories and emotions for all people, thoughts about grandparents or being a grandparent vary for family to family. The lines themselves make no mention of "grandparents" per se, but rather of generations. It's possible that you may represent the first "strand" in the kind of cord we're talking about. The thing we dare not forget is that current "young people" have much to gain from those older than their parents in their lives. It's possible that you may extend or accept such a relationship beyond your "family tree."

By the way, I've joked in the past about being a poor speller. On over 300 bookmarks, I spelled the word cord "chord," While I was embarrassed by the mistake, until that moment I never made the connection between a "chord" of three notes and the three strands twisted in standard "cord" or rope. I later revised the lines to make use of this mistake. =)


Thursday, April 1, 2021

"Rounded:" A Note to CCS Teachers and Staff

 "Whenever you’re feeling worn out, remember that’s how broken things get smooth."  TK


It's only the God who knows all time

(and not the man who, at best,

may catch a glimpse of grandeur)

who truly understands the rhyme

and reason of things at rest

against the rhythm and allure

of things in motion.

Like rounded boulders

broken in some distant age

from cliffs along the ocean

by a merciful shrug of God's shoulders,

we, too, will weather the rage

of wind and waves against the stone…

we, too, of flesh and bone.

© Tom Kapanka 4-1-2021

Dear CCS Faculty and Staff, 

Rounded stones in nature always fascinate me. We’re told by geologists that smooth boulders and rocks are rounded by wind and waves and the constant rhythm of time that gradually wears them down.

The beaches of West Michigan are nearly 100% sand and rocks are scarce, but I grew up on the beaches of Port Huron, and they are stony. I’m not sure why, but the good news is the stones are all rounded so you can walk on them down to the waves for a swim. (Though for some, the walking looks painfully awkward until they are waist deep or find the comfort of a sandbar).

We see the same stony beaches on Mackinac Island where it has become a tradition for tourists to make little rounded rock towers between the beach and the bike trail. Some of these little monuments ("Ebenezers" if you will) stand for several weeks, but mostly they rise and fall in a cycle of renewed remembrance by many helping hands.

I feel like the team at CCS is sort of like rounded rocks. We all know that we are small representations of “The Rock” of our salvation, but our vertical relationship with God and His Son (the Cornerstone) does not mean life will be easy, and in fact, scripture says that the same trials (metaphorically: wind, waves, etc.) come to the just and the unjust. As believers, however, we understand that God intends for the trials of this life to purify us and strengthen us—or to stick with this metaphor—to make us well-rounded for his use. So… whenever you’re feeling worn out, remember that’s how broken things become smooth. 

CCS is blessed by a team of more than 40 well-rounded faculty and staff, and by that I mean, you all have so much different life experiences and gifts that make CCS a better place for students to get a rock-solid foundation of life.  

A donor called me two nights ago and said, “I’m thinking the teachers and staff at Calvary are feeling pretty worn out about now. This has been a tough year hasn’t it?” I assured him that it has been, and in fact, it has been a tough couple of weeks, but God is good and Spring Break is almost here. “That’s why I called,” he said, and through my cell phone I could picture his smile as he spoke and explained his desire to give all of you something to prompt taking a break at a quiet local place over Spring Break and sip a hot beverage and savor some delicious food. “I’ll leave the note to you,” he said.

Enjoy as we celebrate the Sunday when the stone was rolled away!

Tom Kapanka


The last two weeks before Spring Break have been exceptionally difficult as Covid-19 numbers in our state and county have seen an uptick. Our school protocols have been well-documented at this blog, and yet even here at Calvary, over half of the grade-levels in our K-12 program have gone to "virtual" mode due to a few positive tests among students and staff. All of the work involved in taking calls, tracing and updating parents, staff, the board, and the County Health Department is draining. 

Most teachers would much rather be in the classroom with their students than in slipping into BBS on Zoom. (BBS is a term I just made up: "Brady Bunch Syndrome." It's that feeling you get when your face is in a box with many other faces in boxes on a screen.) At any rate, we're all feeling pretty worn out and the image of this sonnet came to mind at my desk this morning as I wrote the note above to our Faculty and Staff in a Thank You card which also contained a gift certificate to Grand Traverse Pie Company.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Focusing on "A Front Porch Frame of Mind" During Re-Enrollment Time 2021

There was a time when more folks 
 had a “front porch” frame of mind, 
and they’d sit out hot nights sippin’ tea— 
makin’ most of a melon rind. 
They knew the beckon of a breeze 
that made ‘em lean back with a sigh 
and say, “Maybe five more minutes…” 
to some silhouettes passing by. 
“Just out for a walk,” a voice responds, 
“Till the house cools down a bit.” 
And by and by, more friends were there 
than there were places to sit. 
It was natural as a cricket’s chirp 
or the smell of a new-mowed lawn 
to gather there like window moths 
(when an inside lamp’s left on). 
Just neighbors visiting neighbors 
in the kindness of the night… 
where differences are dimly lit 
and love needs little light.
© Copyright 1995, Tom Kapanka, June 28, 1995, Patterns of Ink

It's re-enrollment time at Calvary, and we have been walking several prospective families around our building each week (up until this unusual week). Due to lingering pandemic protocols that limit mixing of cohorts and the number of guests in our building at one time, Open House and "Friends Day" is quite different than years past. 

This year's re-enrollment response has been fantastic. Most of our current families have returned their forms, etc. In light of our recent transition to virtual in grades 6-12 from now through Spring Break, we are extending the incentive deadline through next week. If you cannot make it to the building in person, please send Chris Stewart a note of confirmation at Then just bring in the forms as soon as possible the week after Spring Break.

Please read on as our goal this spring if for our whole school family to adopt a "a front porch frame of mind" as we welcome new families to our building this spring.  Some families have already returned "Family Referral Forms" filled out for both them and the family they have invited to CCS. 

I wrote the poem above twenty-six years ago. My mom liked it so much that it hung framed by her front door for years. (Even as an adult that meant a lot to me.)  She said it reminded her of summer nights on her front porch as a kid in Port Huron, MI. That's my mom's front porch in the picture (circa 1939, when the house was only 20 years old). To me, it was Grandma's front porch--nothing fancy but big enough for a glider and a few chairs.

That house still stands on the corner of  Forest Street and Riverview (a few blocks from the Blue Water Bridge) The sidewalks in that neighborhood are only about six feet from the front porches. People passing by often stopped to talk. I remember sitting there as a child and listening to the grown-ups talk about old times. 

Many years later, in 1985, when my wife and I purchased our first home, my parents came to share in the delight. The front porch was enclosed by a white wrought-iron railing and barely big enough for guests to stand aside as the front door opened. On the last night of their visit, Mom and I sat together on the top step, and when my dad and daughters came to join us, there was no room for them. "I wish this house had a bigger front porch like at Grandma's house," I sighed.  

Mom smiled and said, "You don't have to have a big front porch to have a front porch frame of mind." 

She had no idea that her words would tumble in my mind for years and end up in a poem. 

Think about this with me. I've never read or heard anything on this topic,* but the features of houses (and neighborhoods) say a lot about human relationships. At the beginning of the 20th Century, front porches were a prominent part of most houses. I like porches. They say, “Our house is your house. Sit a while and visit.”

In 1920, when my grandmother's house was built, cars were just coming on the scene, and they did not yet own one. By the Great Depression, those who could afford a car sometimes built a small shed in their back yard to keep it out of the weather. It was not until after WWII, as new homes multiplied that the garage was not an afterthought. By the end of the century, cars had became part of the family, and the most prominent feature of a house was no longer a front porch but a huge garage door that open and closed automatically behind the driver. The attached garage marked the beginning of the end of the "front porch frame of mind."

This was not just a design change in houses, it was literally a social change that came with the car as people walked less and stores, schools, and churches moved beyond walking distance. The attached garage meant neighbors could enter their confines without so much as a wave to others (depending on whether their mailbox is also attached to the house). 

As natural neighborly interaction declined, people became more selective with their social time and designed social space moved from the front porch to rear decks and patios (often behind privacy fences). There is nothing wrong with privacy. I'm merely pointing out the difference between back yard gatherings ..and the spontaneous welcome of a front porch near a sidewalk. 

There is another modern convenience that ended "the front porch frame of mind:" air conditioning. My grandma’s house with a the porch had no air conditioning (AC) nor did my childhood home. In fact, I did not live in a house with AC until that one in 1985. I'm a fan of AC, but we must pause to consider the unintended consequences of that comfort and how it has changed the social behavior of neighborhoods. 

Before AC, hot nights drove people outdoors for walks or to their front porches to sit and hope for a breeze. There they were… outside...till all hours of the night with folks strolling by. It was unthinkable not to speak. Hard to stay strangers for long. All that happened on the front porch. Over time, and the cycles of the seasons, neighbors introduced kids (and grandkids). They all knew of graduations, weddings, and the passing of loved ones. In short, the neighborhood shared life face to face—no invitation needed—all because it was a hot night and no one had AC. Once AC came along, however,  a part of us closed off from each other along with our closed doors and windows. Sadly, today's neighborhoods have replaced true conversations with a nod of the head from passing cars.

Think with me about front porches just a moment longer. Are you more of a back deck, privacy-fence kind of person? Or do you have a front porch frame of mind? It’s not a "right or wrong" answer. Most people are a blend of both, but knowing how you lean socially may help sweep off your “front porch,” figuratively speaking. How about your family? How about your church or “small group,” or the school or your choice? 

We've been giving walk-throughs of our school almost every day after school in recent weeks. These prospective observers to the school mention that there’s an inviting atmosphere even under the protocols of a pandemic. Imagine if they could see our school under normal conditions:

Typically, the front office counter is a hub of neighborly chatter; my office door is wide open whenever possible, and drop-ins are frequent; teachers are accessible; volunteers feel at home and at any given time there may be a dozen throughout the building; the front rotunda is often  a gathering place for talking parents who lose track of the time. Oh, how I miss those days, and we look forward to their return. 

Even before Covid-19 protocols, CCS operated a "closed campus” for security reasons, but even so, the tone of our school is welcoming and inviting. People comment on this through the years. What’s our secret? How does this feel like a neighborhood in a 60 -acre woods? Why does the UPS man smile as he waits in line for a signature? Why do parents who no longer have kids in the school still stop by to purchase SCRIP? Why do alumni come back whenever they can? Why do teachers and therapists from the public sector enjoy their assignment to CCS (and often continue to serve here after retirement)? There are many reasons, but I think the main one is...

CCS has always had a front porch frame of mind.  
Let's let it show this spring!

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*UPDATE: My mom first used that phrase in 1986, and I first wrote the poem and these thoughts (less the part about CCS) in the early 90's. I mention this because while re-writing this post recently, I thought about the fact that I had never heard or read anything on what I consider a significant topic. I'm pleased to say that if you do a Google search with the words "front porch / community" you may find at least three related articles that I had never read. This one, provides the history, cultural significance, decline, and reappearance of American from porches--there's amazing agreement in our thoughts. (He tends to give more credit to the arrival of cars and television to the decline of the front porch. I still hold that AC is the biggest factor, because had cars and TV, but without AC, we spent evenings out on the porch and front lawn. This second article is shorter, but strongly underscores this post. It begins with this quote from a Tracy Lawrence song: "If the world had a front porch like we did back then, we'd still have our problems, but we'd all be friends." Get this... the author describes "Neo-traditional" communities that are going back to front porches: "The streets are designed to encourage walking and socializing among the neighbors. ...The neo-traditional neighborhoods have sidewalks and trees lining the streets for pedestrians. Front yards are shallow so that neighbors converse easily between the sidewalks and the front porches....The porch is a symbol of community, offering an invitation with its front steps reaching out and meeting the sidewalk, drawing passers-by to the comfortable chair or swing. The porch encourages family and neighborly communication." So there you have it. These articles were written AFTER I wrote this poem and essay twenty years ago. I'm not the only one who believes a "A Front Porch Frame of Mind" can still work in the 21st Century.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Once Upon a Snow Day

Today is our second snow day of the year, and I hope you all enjoy the beauty of Michigan's Winter Wonderland.

It's because CCS has worked so hard to provide as "normal" a school year as possible that we have confidence in saying, "Enjoy the snow day!" Most of life/s most important lessons come without lesson plans. 

But I do have two easy assignments for you and your family on this snowy weekend: 
1.Enjoy some time outdoors if safe, then find a way to get cozy so you can do the second assignment...
2.Read this post about a story that began on a snow day about thirty years ago. If I had not gone outside to play with my daughters on that snow day, the story "Finding Cozy" would never have been written. 

This past fall, my daughter Natalie (CCS Class of 2013) and son-in-law Colton Wilson (CCS Class of 2010) helped me illustrate and publish the book. It's available on Amazon (about 3 days delivery) and at The Bookman in Grand Haven. More than 200 copies have been sold since the week before Christmas. 

March Reading Month is just a few weeks away, and our CCS librarian, Mrs. Anhalt, is organizing a book signing event (in accordance with our building Covid protocols) at CCS. (Details TBA) I will be donating half of the author's proceeds of pre-purshased books (or purchased at that event) to our CCS library fund. Pre-purchasing your book(s) will help ensure that yours is waiting for you at the event. If you already own a copy of "Finding Cozy," feel free to bring it to that event for signing, etc.

Click on this link to read the  backstory of "Finding Cozy." It happened once upon a snow day.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Winter Wonderland Weather: A Gift From God

When I was nine, the license plate on our family car said: "Water-Winter Wonderland," and I was sure it had something to do with the song we sang at Christmas. My mom went along with it, but decades later I learned that the song was written some thirty years before the Michigan slogan was adopted. In fact, the lyricist was describing the city park in his home town of Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Nonetheless, to me, that song and my state were inseparable throughout my childhood. I must admit that I had forgotten that feeling since the Covid thing hit. That is... I'd forgotten until this past Thursday.

The week before this video was made was supposed to be Homecoming Week at school, a January tradition going back more than twenty years. Such events are part of the rhythms of school like holidays and the change of seasons, and when they don't happen, an inexplicable void gets everybody out of step. It's not just the fun that is needed, it's the marker in time. You see, Homecoming brings "spirit days" (where the kids dress according to fun themes like super-hero day, etc.). Then there's the big pep rally, lib synch and poster contests, the big game, "Fifth Quarter" Pizza Party for alumnni afterwards, and then the banquet on Saturday. None of that happened, however, due to the shut-down of sports, social distancing, and no banquet facility being available. Then the teams learned that their basketball seasons were delayed another month. School spirit was noticeably low. I'm glad we were having school in person at the building, because we were able to see just how sullen the high schoolers were (since Homecoming Week affects them most).

What do you do when you know your students need some wind in their sails? Well, in anticipation of these doldrums, we made made arrangements for an afternoon at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex just 20 minutes away. We originally had it booked for Friday, but changed it to Thursday so we could have the entire place mostly to ourselves. That was important to our Covid cohort protocols. It was fantastic!

I cannot describe what happened to two bus loads of kids saw this Winter Wonderland! They began being risk takers who laughed at their mistakes. They defined the word PLAY. The three hours can be summed up in three words that applied everyone (including my wife and me). These three words brought hope in a time when we all need hope. I thought they might do the same for you:

"Being kids again!"

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Good News in Hard Times

There is an encouraging brief video at the end of this post.

Our "12 Days of Giving" was launched this past December to help bridge the GAP between our annual operational costs and regular income. The need was especially great due to the challenges of these difficult times (e.g. no Fall Fund-Raising Banquet). Our total fiscal year (July 1-June 30) "GAP" need is just over $200,000, but our stated goal for December (year-end) was an ambitious $120,000 ($10,000 for each day though giving continued to the end of the month).  

[click on images to enlarge]
After processing all of the year-end gifts, WE ARE THRILLED ANNOUNCE THAT WE EXCEEDED THE $120,000 GOAL--a new record by far! This essential help puts  the budget of this educational ministry on firm ground as we continue to raise the remainder between now and June. 

The response was so good that a third "Leaving a Legacy" tree has been ordered for the extra gifts and continued participation from our school family. ($500=bronze, $2,500=silver, and $5,000=gold). The display above was installed in the State Flag Foyer last week.

[click on images to enlarge and read]

Speaking of donors, during the recent Covid-19 shutdown, a CCS donor gifted us with a steel flag engraved with "Pledge of Allegiance.". It arrived over Christmas Break and we hung it this week.  Today, our First Grade, made it official. In times when we see others burning the symbol of this nation under God, it is encouraging to see tender hearts looking up to an indelible reminder of God's gift of LIBERTY. 

(Encouragement in 90 Seconds from CCS First Grade.)