Archive for the ‘Faith Academy’ Category

Heaven or Hell? Highschool 41 years later.

Friday, August 13th, 2010

High School is not a happy memory.  In fact, I have often said prior to my first four years in Spokane, Washington, it was the worst 3 and a half years of my life.  I just attended my 41st year High School Reunion. I feared going and almost backed out at the last minute.  In the end, I went and am glad I did.

From Jan 1964-April 1969, I attended Faith Academy just outside of Manila, Philippines.  We returned to the Philippines in January 1964. My parents, brother and two sisters went on to Mindanao where we worked.  As there was no school beyond 8th grade for me to attend, I stayed in Manila to attend the boarding school for missionary kids, Faith Academy.  This school comprised kindergarten to twelfth grade.  I joined in the middle of my freshman year. There were 320 souls k-12 the year I graduated, 1969.

I never felt at home at this school.  Why?  I missed my family and all that was familiar to me in Mindanao; I was an interloper who jumped into the puddle at the middle vice at the beginning like a huge number of the kids who had gone to school together since they were little; I am old short and fat now–back then, I was young.  In a school where basketball prowess establishes social standing, I was swinging on the outhouse door.  I also made my share of stupid mistakes which aided the alienation.   Finally, I think the angst of being a teenager wore heavily on my psyche.  If all had been perfect, I would still have struggled.

Was High School all bad?  Of course not!  There were many bright spots.  Wrestling Coach Steve St. Claire was not a bright spot, he was a beacon!  He was a lighthouse on a distant stormy shore.  I do not know how many times he comforted me in my unhappiness. I do not recall him ever giving me much advice, he was just there to listen.  This continued into my adulthood where he and his wife, Dottie gave me advice and succor many times over the phone, in person and in letters. This still continues from time to time.  There were teachers who encouraged me greatly:  Miss Sommerville, my English teacher.  Mrs Brunemier, who thought I hated her as we butted heads often, apologized to me at graduation.  She had no need as most of our headbutting was because I never shut-up.  Mr. Musgrove and several others whose names escape me at the moment were kind and helpful.   While many of the kids were cruel, others were wonderful.  Annie and Glee Ritchey, Becky Eames, Joy Brown, Jim Long, Jay Kyle, and Paul Lavender are individuals who come quickly to mind.  There were very good experiences as well.  The Senior Play, wrestling (Finals for the league tournament: 2nd my Junior year and first my Senior year.)  Cross Country (Coach St. Claire said of me “Atherton, you are the only person I ever met that run’s slower than he walks.”  I treasure that to this day!  It was so true.)  There were some nice trips to Pinatubo mountain and the ocean.  I loved attending the Union Church in Manila.  I am sure many of the sermons derived from Barth’s musings have at least a sub-concious impact on me to this day. And finally, a trip to Carol and Emily Gordon’s home with my friend Paul Lavender has been a sweet taste in my mind on many occasions over the past decades. Included are the bus ride, the long hot shower where I used up the hot water, the time at the beach and just being in with a group of people for a while.

Yet, I left school very angry.  Angry at a couple individuals and certainly angry at Basketball.  I have long since lost my anger–but not yet developed love as demanded by Scripture for those who despitefully use you–for the individuals. As for basketball, I feel no scriptural need to seek its forgiveness or–regardless of what poetry in motion those big professional ball players are–develop an interest in or love for this sport. I shall enjoy hating it until I cross the great continental divide. I am sure “it” mourns my disdain.

I looked at my experience at Faith as a very dark umbrella overwhelming the few points of light underneath and that feeling has persisted for four decades.  I have tried to bury it, eliminate it, hide it and make it go away.  Unfortunately, it has been a zombie climbing up from the pit at the slightest tug of memory. It is so persistent.  This reunion has helped in many ways.  I would say the umbrella is still there. But, because the points of light under it have increased both numerically and in intensity, the umbrella is now a light grey and not so overwhelming.  The good is finally beginning to balance out the bad.  I am very thankful I went.  Here are some of the factors from this reunion which have brought me a measure of relief.

First and foremost.  Paul Lavender was a very good friend to me during our mutual sojourn there.  I do not know if he made a conscious effort to do so, but, I felt somewhat protected by his friendship.  He was a year older than I and I missed him greatly after he graduated in 1968.  For years, rumors circulated regarding his stint in Vietnam and his struggles after Vietnam.  Because Paul was going to this reunion, I could not cancel.  To see Paul happy and contented with a wonderful wife–no doubt a significant causal part of his contentment–was a great joy for me.  Thank you Helen Eyestone for having Paul publicly share the circumstances surrounding his receipt of a silver star.  For those who do not know, the silver star is functionally the third highest possible award one can receive:  Medal of Honor, two different distinguished crosses, then, the silver star. Much of the award process runs around rank and politics.  For an E5 to earn the silver star, you must really do something extraordiany because everyone around you is doing amazing things.  Paul, I am sure I join the three men whose lives you saved and their families in thanking you! But, no surprises here, you had already earned the Medal of Honor from me for high school.

Emily Gordon came up to me at the airport and gave me a hug and asked if I recalled pulling her out of the ocean.  We all dream of rescuing a beautiful damsel in distress.  Emily, HOW COULD I POSSIBLY FORGET!  Emily’s encouragement and friendship are a wonderful thing.

My class was pretty much AWOL from this event. Thanks Kitty for showing up.  You are still your sweet self after all these years.  I am happy for the joy you found in the later part of your (still young) life.  Great to see you and your Sis again.

Spending time with Paul Hendricks and his wife Linda was really great as we have a shared interest in wrestling and bees.  Look for a special blog on the little buzzers. Paul was THE man on the wrestling team during my Junior year. He had to eat a lot to break 115 pounds. He wrestled 2 or 3 classes above that. Only one wrestler stove off his prowess and avoided a pin. Of course, that was because Paul insisted on pinning him with the Banana Split move. I imagine that guy is still holding his crotch in agony at those tortured inner thigh muscles. 8.75 minutes out of nine being stretched as if you were on the rack. Congrats to you, who ever you were! You deserve a medal for toughness.

Being able to sit down with Coach Hardeman for a few minutes and discuss Faith was also healing.  He has given over 40 years (along with his wife) to this school, the Philippines and the kids of Faith. As the CMMIC in charge of basketball, we shared letters several years ago regarding my issues. It was good for us to talk in person. Thanks Tine for the time.

Finally, the many people who were friendly to me at this reunion and especially those who were younger than myself. A number were very warm to me–beyond the generalities of a shared experience–which led me to believe I may have touched their lives in someway during my time at Faith.  I choose to believe that and that relieves much of the burden of what I felt were pretty much wasted years. Never forget great roommates (Sandy, Rick, Kieth and one other who I did not see much.)

To those who I did not get a chance to sit down and talk with, Brian Boyce pops in my mind, I am sorry we did not have opportunity to talk. I would have liked to discuss your time in the service and your motorcycle which I happened to see as you were leaving. Your Dad was helpful to me as my dorm father. Thanks for sharing him with so many of us. I am sure that was difficult for you.

I have a friend of nearly 4 decades, Don (and I will protect his last name.) who says “No matter how bad things get, you can never loose your ability to laugh at those that are less fortunate than yourself.” While I disagree with that statement-as does he in reality-it is poignant in this discussion. As a teenager, I and likely most of us, was wrapped up in my own egocentric evaluation of the depth of my misery. The problems of others were invisible to me. I was amazed as I talked with or listened to others who I thought were very blessed–and we will not discuss individuals–who made my sadnesses and problems pale in comparison. While I missed my parents, I did not doubt their love. While there were some stresses between me and my siblings, we were not played against each other by our parents. While sometimes I felt left out, I sought out friendships outside of the school to augment those within the school. Others felt a total sense of isolation. In short, I can now rejoice my problems were really so insignificant. On the other hand my heart turns for those of you whose problems dwarfed my own. You all hid them so well!

Finally, Helen, Joni and all the unseen hands that helped put this reunion together.  Thank you so much!  Like an iceberg, the good time at the reunion is visible, the great mountain of work below the water level that supports the visible tip dwarfs the final performance.

A final PS goes to my wonderful sister, Debbie Warkentin.  I am so glad you came.  We see each other far to infrequently.  It was good to be together again and I really enjoyed our date into town.

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