Off The Wall, November 013, 2009

Recently, while taking a walk, I happened to come upon a boat in the back yard of a Latrobe residence that was visibly sprayed by vandals. There were words and symbols on it signifying “love” and “peace.”

I was so taken aback by a number of things. First and foremost, I thought, whoever did this was definitely clueless as to what they were painting on someone else’s possession. Second, if this person(s) really understood the meaning of the word “love”, instead of defacing someone’s property, he (they) may have wanted to take a rag and polish the boat as a good gesture for its owner.

The peace symbol is the most widely known symbol in the world. It was designed in 1958 by Gerald Holtom, a professional designer and artist from England, and was displayed originally in that country as standing for nuclear disarmament. Brought over to this country, the emblem became very popular for civil rights marches. Later it appeared at anti-Vietnam War demonstrations and was even seen daubed in on helmets by GIs as their way of showing protest.

For what does the peace sign stand? The answer is simple – A symbol of freedom. It is the latter which is free for all.

There is a difference between “free for all,” and “a free for all.” “Free for all” does not imply spray painting wherever one feels led, whether it is on the buildings throughout area towns, on rocks on someone else’s land protruding from the soils, or in this case, other people’s possessions, such as a boat parked on a residence property in the city of Latrobe. We as Americans honor “freedom for all” which coincides with democracy.

If the spray painter really understood love deep down in his heart, he would instantly know he did wrong, and would take every step to correct his misdeeds.

From the hymn “Not for Tongues of Heaven’s Angels,” are the words (by Timothy Dudley-Smith) so beautifully put, in the second and third stanzas:

“Love is humbles, love is gentle, love I tender, true and kind; love is gracious, ever patient, generous of heart and mind: may love be ours O Lord.”

“Never jealous, never selfish, love will not rejoice in wrong; never boastful nor resentful, love believes and suffers long: may love be with us O Lord.”

Now, I could have written this for Valentine’s Day, but that is so far away. Sometimes when these types of things happen, there are reasons we want the story mentioned now.

For example, not knowing who the culprit is, maybe a teenager or adult reading this column, just by chance, may be awakened to the fact that what was done was wrong, and do everything he can to make things right. In addition, he may change his ways in the future, using his energies in a more positive fashion.

What he and others fail to recognize, who commit these acts, is that God is taking notes of all the wrongs that not only these individuals perform, but acts all of us do that go against His teachings. Purposing damaging or marring other people’s property is an offense against God subject to fine, physically and spiritually. But unless one stands up for his wrongs and does not ask for forgiveness to God, he will carry those wrong doings to his grave.

As I see it, there are so many good people whom I encounter every day. All come from different walks of life. Several have parents whom have neglected them or don’t care about such careless activities.

Do I have a solution on how these activities can be halted? No. But I will say this. Turning both cheeks and walking in the opposite direction may only encourage the perpetrator(s). Explaining to all what love really is and then proving it by example may be the best step forward, creating real peace for which the hopeless yearn. Is not it our responsibility for us, God’s blessed, to reach out to those less fortunate?

- Paul J. Volkmann
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