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Peace, Love, Joy, and Letting Go

Monday, 12 Dec 2022

Dear NPES Community,

After four decades as a steelworker on the south side, my grandfather served briefly as a security guard at the Art Institute of Chicago. In the mid-1970s, as a young elementary school student, I remember feeling like I owned the place (and everything in it, too) holding his hand as we walked through those magical galleries. The art, which seemed strange and curious to me, was larger than life. It made me feel connected to something exciting and new, and more expansive than my world. Wandering through that museum today still makes me feel that way, along with a connection that transcends time and space to my grandfather, who has been gone now for forty-three years.

When I recall moments of peace, love, and joy from my childhood, I can’t help but envision Marc Chagall’s “America’s Windows” at the Art Institute. A gift to our city from the Franco-Russian artist on the occasion of the republic’s bicentennial, it still stops me in my tracks. I know it’s saccharine, but Chagall’s floating, spinning, shiny, happy people–not in “America Windows” alone, but also in “The Four Seasons” in the Chase Tower Plaza on south Dearborn Street–have always made me feel happy to be alive. I think I might better be able to explain why in verse, if you’re curious.

I share this rather personal and admittedly self-centered reflection this December for this reason: I believe Chagall’s work offers us all a way of looking at the world that is not childish but child-like; that honors our individual lived experiences even as it celebrates a beautiful and affirming community of others that is both like us and different from us; and that teaches us that letting go, not holding on, is living well, allowing ourselves and those around us to be lifted by the spirit and the lightness of being that exists, somewhere, inside us all.

Whatever your family’s faith and culture tradition, and whatever season serves as your beacon of peace, hope, and love, on behalf of myself and the NPES faculty and staff, I wish you an easy, restorative, and joyful December Break. I hope you can find the time, will, and strength to slow down, to experience a world that can be difficult to manage as a child might experience it, even for a while. Our collective work to parent and educate the children we love can be complex and exhausting, but it always has purpose and meaning. And while worry, struggle, and humility can be found around almost every corner, so can peace, love, and joy.

Happy holidays to you all,
John Novick, Jr.
Head of School