Not a good use of time

A long time ago, I can remember making a rest stop on Interstate 85. A snack and drink were also needed. But, I quickly learned putting some coins in the vending machine I had chosen was not going to happen. 

A really thoughtful person made the decision to break into the vending machine. Busted glass, bent metal were in abundance. As a result, no one was able to use this machine.

Disappointed, the road trip started again. 

As I drove, I thought—too bad the machine wasn’t equipped with mechanical arms. 

Whenever a vending machine is being tampered with for unlawful personal gain, these arms with large mechanical hands would quietly deploy from each side of the machine. The arms and hands would work collaboratively and bear hug the intruder. This unwise person would now be held until law enforcement could arrive.

Who knows, maybe the person who attacked the vending machine was desperate for food or money. Regardless of the person’s motivation, the decision to vandalize triggers a series of interruptions in routines for other people to respond to the mess. 

Maintenance personnel clean up the debris.   Management at the rest stop file a police report. A police officer inspects the site, adds to the report, and looks for clues. The company who owns the machine assesses the damage and determines if repairs can be made or if the machine is a total loss. And probably either the vending machine owner or the management of the rest site will be contacting their insurance company.

That’s a lot of post-incident disruption for one vending machine. But, the perpetrator wasn’t thinking about who would be impacted for the damage to the vending machine. 

During the weekend of June 4, 2021, at Trinity United Methodist Church, we had our own encounter with an intruder. 

For close to two years, we’ve had banners displayed on our grounds along Forest Avenue that proclaimed two statements:

  • No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.
  • All are children of God.

Someone, took exception to the “All are children of God” banner. This person took a can of red spray paint and painted over those words.

Damaged sign photo by Bill Pike

I took a photo, filed a report with our community officer from the police department, removed the damaged sign, checked the grounds for a tossed can of spray paint, and asked our communication specialist to order a new sign.

Again, I wish the limbs of the trees where the signs were displayed had been able to swoop down and grab the unskilled artist.

Sadly, vandalism like this takes place somewhere every day. I would wager the chances of our spray painter being apprehended are slim. 

Still, I am curious about who would take out his/her frustration on what seems to me to be a harmless wording on a banner.

I have written this before, but there is something about the cover of darkness that gives a person an ounce more of courage.Too bad the prankster’s temporary courage could not be converted into a good use of time—something productive instead of  property damage.

And yet, sometimes, something good can come from an unwanted intrusion.

A couple of days after this disappointment, our senior pastor shared an e-mail with me from one of our church neighbors. She and her daughter had noted the defaced banner. The neighbor went on to state how the words on both banners really resonated with each of them.

The neighbor was asking for permission not to replace the banner, but to place on the church lawn near the banner a parcel of miniature rainbow flags.

We accepted her offer of support. 

Within a week, her shipment of flags arrived. Our neighbor and her daughter put the flags in place. The flags look good on the lawn. They are a reassurance that kind hearts can still make a difference in a world with lots of challenges.

Flags from the mother and daughter photo by Bill Pike

I wonder what pushes a person to invest his/her time into busting up a vending machine or defacing a banner? I wonder if this person ever stops to think—hey, I’m not using my time wisely, or this isn’t my best thinking, something might go wrong, and I’ll be caught.

I know the answer. 

This isn’t because I have busted up a vending machine or defaced a banner.

It is because, my memory will not let me forget the stupidity of the moments in my life when I used time unproductively or was not thinking clearly. 

In those instances, I put myself and those who loved and cared for me on a dangerously slippery slope. For whatever reason, the good Lord, guardian angels, or parental prayers kept me safe.

We ordered a new banner. Thanks to the expertise of a church member, the banner is back in place.

And for the person who created this disruption, keep this in mind—sometimes the luck found in the courage of darkness runs out. 

And, I’ll take that a step further—this wasn’t a good use of your time, and if you’re interested in a career as an artist or painter, you might want to rethink that path.

But, this is my real hope for you. 

My hope is that some arms will gently embrace your heart, your soul, and help you to understand:  All, including yourself, are children of God.

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