Sitting down to write this took some true determination for me. Generally I’m an optimist at heart and am able to see a silver lining in the clouds that come my way. So, when I want to complain about something, it’s not easy for me to put my frustration into words. But I am having to work very hard at forgiveness for the vandal that damaged our new school playground.
The children at Park Meadows Elementary School have worked to fundraise for this for over three years. They sold chips and popcorn; held dance-a-thons and carnivals. With the support of individuals, parents, businesses and corporate sponsors, they celebrated every dollar that was added to the playground account. The entire school was outside for the ribbon tearing. The fact that it is an accessible facility made them all proud to be able to include their friends who are less able to use regular playground equipment. Everyone can be part of it. After school-wide submissions, the entire student body voted and named it the “Playground of Caring”. How marvelous is that? And then someone thought it would be a good idea to vandalize it less than three weeks after it was opened.
Vandals have always been a part of history. The first recorded use of this name is from a tribe in 455 B.C. They have been given the deplorable place in history as the barbaric people who ransacked and looted Rome which led to the eventual fall of the Roman Empire, according to some historians. Through the ages vandalism has come to mean the intentional abuse or damage or destruction of any portion of someone else’s property or common shared property. I have to admit that I don’t understand why someone would want to act out in this way. The malicious destruction or disfigurement of public or private property is not a behavior that’s easily forgiven.
My pastor says that forgiveness is not condoning, ignoring or dismissing as unimportant, the work of this attention seeker. I’m not doing any one of those things and that is what makes forgiveness hard work for me. When I read about gravestones being ruined or lawn ornaments being smashed or buildings and fences being disfigured, I don’t understand how this can make the perpetrator feel good about themselves or the result of their actions. It’s a crime and results in higher taxes and insurance payments. Who benefits from this? I wouldn’t think it’s something that the individual can brag about to his friends on Facebook or Twitter.
As an adult, if I am having difficulty finding some forgiveness in my heart for this obviously troubled vandal, and letting go of the anger and disappointment, imagine how it feels to a group of eight year olds?