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Repaying forgiveness given to me

$5,100 of $5,000 goal

Raised by 110 people in 2 months
25 years ago I pulled a prank and broke a giant window.  My principal, Mr. Clarke, chose to forgive me. Now I am making good on paying the school back ($1994 of my own money) before my 25th reunion - plus any additional money you help me raise.

The backstory:
I attended Montpelier High School in Montpelier, Vermont.  For the most part, I was a pretty quiet kid who rarely came out of his shell.  If I walked by you, I'd most certainly go unnoticed.  Over my high school years I had a developed a reputation for being studious, responsible, and diligent - a true Breakfast-Club-Anthony-Michael-Hall-type.  But late in my senior year I decided to test the limits of what I could get away with because, quite frankly, I knew that no one expected it of me.

The prank:

I hung a giant banner from the roof of the auditorium that read "Live Long and Prosper Class of 1994." Pulling this off required a lot of preparation, brute force, and luck.

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The banner was 60 ft. wide and 16 feet tall, and made up of 12 blue tarps purchased at Somer's hardware in downtown Montpelier from Dennis Maranville who, incidentally, was also one of the high school custodians.  He had no idea what I was up to.  He also didn't ask any questions.

I painted each panel of the banner by hand, one by one, in my parents barn.  The placement of each letter was carefully measured using only a tape measure and a marker, and the letters were brushed on using an unused can of boring off-white paint from my parents living room, and bedroom, and kitchen, and bathroom, and dining room, and you get the idea.

Once they were painted, I stitched them all together with a bunch of zip ties and copper wire in the back yard.  I folded it up several times and then rolled it along it's 60ft. length.  Once it was rolled, I realized that I had failed to estimate just how big and heavy the banner would be.  All said, it was probably 4 ft tall and 2.5 feet in diameter...and it was heavy.

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The night before the grand unveiling, I had a friend come by the house & we loaded the banner into his vintage Land Rover.  Early the following morning, I met him at the school.  We wrestled the pile of painted tarps through the front door, up the stairs, and into the music room.  At the back of the room was a closet that contained a large metal ladder that went to the roof.  And this is another thing that I underestimated... Carrying this rolled up banner up that ladder, lifting it above our heads, and out the hatch some 15 feet off the ground was almost beyond my limits...But there was no alternative.  Goonies never say die.

We birthed it from the hatch and pushed it out on the roof.  It was dark, cold, windy, and raining.  Great conditions for two 17-year-olds to safely be on a 30 ft tall roof...Not.  There were surprisingly few items to tie the banner to, but I had a lot of rope.  Dennis sold me A LOT of rope.   We helped each other unroll the banner, tie it off, and throw it over the side.  I remember that it sagged in the middle and my heart skipped a beat upon seeing it.  We didn't have enough tension on the sides and it just looked like an unreadable mess.  Good thing Dennis sold me extra rope.  We pulled the banner taught, still in the cover of darkness, and then quickly descended through the hatch, back into the school to resume our day as typical students.


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The unintended consequence:

Don't ask me what it was like to pull off such a prank.  I really don't remember.  I know that I walked out front to take in the sight of the banner and watch reactions from students and faculty alike.  I think I was quite proud of it.  But my memory of this accomplishment is fuzzy, because that memory is so vividly replaced by the moment I learned that the banner broke the auditorium window.

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It's just tarps and ropes right?  Well, not really.  To make sure that the sign didn't flop around in the wind, I tied 2 liter bottles of water to each of the bottom corners.  Under light winds, the bottles were sufficient to keep the tarps stretched tightly against the building.  But in heavy winds like, um, on this day, they basically got lifted into the air and thrown around against the auditorium walls.  One of the bottles smashed a giant plate glass window and driving rain started to pour into the auditorium.

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So I certainly wasn't sitting outside staring at the banner to see this happen.  I heard about it in the hallway from someone in between classes.  I naturally didn't believe them until I heard it from another person, and yet another, and another.  And then I got the unsettling suspicion that it might actually be real.

A lot of worries went through my head. Word on the street was that I'd have to pay for it...which I obviously had no ability to do after buying all of those tarps and rope.  Worse yet, I might be suspended.  And worse than that, my diploma might be withheld.  And worse than that I thought my parents would be so incredibly disappointed, because they expected me to be a good kid and not to break giant expensive seemingly irreplaceable windows on days of torrential downpour.

I knew it was only a matter of time that I got called to the Principal's office.  Yes, It happened.  And no, it didn't take long.

The Reaction:

Our Principal, Mr. Clarke, pulled me aside and we took a long, slow, silent walk to his office that felt like an eternity.  Now, 25 years is a long time to remember real quotations, so I'll paraphrase what he said to me.  It went something like this:

"Mike, I know that you had the best of intentions when you put this sign up on the wall today.  Sometimes we don't think through all of our actions and this can lead to problems.  I'm not going to make you pay for the window.  We'll cover it.  And I forgive you for being part of what caused it to break.  You won't be suspended & you'll still graduate with your class and get your diploma.  Yes, I've heard the rumors too.  Just promise me that from here on out you'll always consider your actions and the potential outcomes of those actions."

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Of course I agreed to his terms.  I felt fortunate that I had built up so much credibility previously in my high school career.  It was quite clear from the tone in his voice that I had just spent a lot of it in this one moment of glory.

During graduation, Mr. Clarke's commencement speech was built upon the narrative of one of his teachers, Mr. Newell, forgiving him for his childhood antics.  To date, I am not sure if I inspired this narrative, or if I was just a convenient supporting example. "Mr. Newell would have loved your class. He would have celebrated your spirit, your individuality, your creativity and, yes, your sense of humor.  He even would have forgiven you a few broken windows."

He went on to say, "Mr. Newell planted the idea deep in my soul that I could, with courage and hard work, make a difference with my life.  I would like to suggest to each of you that Mr. Newell got it right.  That each of you has within you a gift that is crying out to be realized and shared with others.  You are a very special group of men and women.  You can do great things in the world if you follow your hearts and realize the the dreams that lie deep within you.  The faculty and I wish you well as you embark on your personal journey of discovery.  We love you and we will miss you.  And Michael, here's your bill for the window.  Live long and prosper."



And finally:

The bill the Mr. Clarke gave me was symbolic more than anything else. It was for $1,994.00, the year of our graduating class, which honestly seemed like a deal relative to what I imagined the actual cost of the window being.  The bill stated that it needed to be paid by my 25th reunion - a very generous payment plan indeed.

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I had pretty much forgotten about this bill until I opened a box of old memories looking for things to discard.  Reading through it, with years of perspective, it only seems obvious that I should pay it back with my own money. 

I received a great education while attending Montpelier Public Schools.  I had wonderful teachers who truly cared about me, and each of my classmates.  It was a unique learning environment that granted freedom within a framework, allowing each of us to try, succeed or fail, learn, and try again with as much support as we needed.

You may not know me.  You may not know MHS.  You likely may not know any of the students or faculty that were there in the early 90's, or any of the people who are there today.  I am far from perfect, but MHS helped instill in me a strong desire to achieve my best, act responsibly, and make amends.  That's why, regardless of whether not you donate, I will be paying Mr. Clarke's invoice in full. 

All money raised through this campaign will be donated to Montpelier High School.  
Please support me in raising money for this truly remarkable school system & surprising them (in a good way) this time around.


I would like to suggest to each of you that, just like Mr. Newell, Peter Clarke got it right too.

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Hey everyone, I know it's been a while since my last update. Thanks to all of your kindness and generosity I have been exceptionally busy writing thank you notes to each of you. If you didn't get yours, let me know and I will gladly send you another one!

Can you believe it? This really unusual fundraising campaign actually raised an additional $5000.00 (on top of the original $1994) for MHS!

Who would have ever thought that a broken window from 25 years ago could bring so many people together? Personally, this is all so much more than I ever expected and I am so appreciative of all of you. You are awesome.

Something that I have realized along the way is that each of you have given me an amazing gift... the ability to add another chapter to this story - a story that was already so much fun for me to tell - 25 years after the fact. This is completely worth it. Thank you all so much!

My principal, Peter Clarke, had no idea that the real prank would occur in 2019 when he would have to turn away numerous newspaper & television appearance requests related to this. Ha! Got you good!

Thanks to each of you who donated, shared this on FB, or simply told someone about it. Because of you this quirky & unusual fundraiser has taken off and gone viral!

Next stop, MHS!

Live long and prosper,
Mike
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Our GoFundMe Campaign to raise money for MHS has raised $4700.00 so far! That's 94% of our $5000.00 goal (as in Live Long and Prosper Class of 1994!). Please keep those FB shares and donations coming in we are almost there! Thank you to everyone who has helped get us this far!
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Here's a special "May the 4th" video update on the GoFundMe campaign to support Montpelier High School with a guest appearance from Chewbacca!

Thank you all for your incredible support and generosity!

Only 4 days in and we are already over 80% of the way to the $5000.00 goal! Your response to this campaign has been so amazing! Thank you!!!

Please keep sharing these updates with your friends & family! We are closing in on the goal and I can't wait for us to get there together! Thank you notes are on the way to each of you!!!

Live long and Prosper & May the force be with you,
Mike
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Hello everyone,

I'd like to thank everyone for their incredibly generous contributions to this effort. I honestly never expected it to take off and go this far, this fast. I believe that this is the first time in the history of the known universe that so many people have gathered together to help repay the loss of a 25 year old broken window.

Thank you all so much for spreading word of this story and helping raise money for MHS!!! Whether the donation is $4 or $94, I am so thankful for your contributions and all of your touching comments. The level of generosity has been amazing! I promise to send personal thank you notes to each of you...I'm working on it, but you are all donating faster than I can keep up.

A special thank you goes to Michelle White who, less than 36 hours into this, made the clincher $7 dollar donation that got us to the $2500.00 level, thus allowing me to use this meme:

(This is where the Bon Jovi "WOAAAAH WE'RE HALFWAY THERE" meme should be)

Me likey the Jovi.

Over the past two days, each of you have helped me confirm what I always suspected... that this is about so much more than a broken window, a goofball kid with way too much time on his hands, or a hard-working principal of a small-town high school. It's about how these things came together at a moment in time, in an infinite world of possible outcomes, and then one thing happened. It could have been many different things, but it was only this one thing... a moment of forgiveness.

At 17 years old, I certainly did not have the ability to predict the future & what life would bring to my doorstep over the course of the next 25 years. I suspect Mr Clarke didn't either. In that moment of forgiveness, there was no guarantee that I would appreciate it. There was no guarantee that I would acknowledge it. And certainly no guarantee that I would ever do anything differently in my life because of it. So why even bother to forgive? As I sit here, it's an amazing question to ponder. And the simplest answer that I can think of is because "Maybe some good will come from it." Hope.

For me, that's why I decided to pay the bill out of my own pocket. It's important to me that Mr. Clarke knows & sees that his choice was worthwhile. I broke the window. It's mine to pay for. I'll make this journey. But its even better with friends. None of you had to come along, but you did it anyway. You are all amazing. I hope even more of you come along with me.

I've always been proud to say that I grew up in Montpelier, Vermont - the tiniest state capital, the only one without a McDonald's, and what I believe was once the world's largest asphalt pool. (Somebody fact check me on this.) One thing not in dispute is the amazing level of community, kindness, and generosity. You have all warmed my heart.

Please continue to help me spread the word on this campaign. I'd really love to see us reach the goal - and maybe, quite possibly, even boldly go where no broken high school window fundraiser has gone before. Live long and prosper, Montpelier! May the force be with you.
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