Yesterday, while at church, I was looking outside and some vandal or other had covered the walls of the schoolyard in big black graffiti. I have to admit to always reading the stuff as most of the time, the people named tend to be familiar – they have been in my schoolroom at some time or other. It just looked so ugly – and obvious… and destructive.
I suppose, part of it is just my usual winter blues, but it felt depressing to look at wall. This is the world we live in where people are destructive and do ugly things. Sometimes, rather than it being physical writing on a real wall, it is the things people say that cause the damage to the heart. Sometimes, the way people speak to one another, it is like taking a can of black paint and spraying graffiti on the inside of someone. Just like the black paint on the school wall will take an effort to remove, and perhaps leave a mark behind – so too with our hearts. Harsh words are not easily wiped away from our memories.
However, after thinking dark thoughts, God directed my attention to a tree just in front of the wall. Hanging down from the tree, were twenty or more little white plastic cups. They hung upside down from bits of string and were packed with nuts and scraps for the birds. Obviously they were the work of one of the primary school classes. Dozens of birds in the branches, or flying up from the ground, were pecking away at the food. They were all shapes and sizes and all enjoying a meal.
Just as there are people that are destructive, there are also people who are not. Some people display extraordinary kindness and look after the needs of the forgotten and neglected.
God said to me that morning that I have a choice – to look at the graffiti and get downhearted, or to look at the tree and be encouraged. Too often we focus on the bad stuff that people do, and everyone becomes the enemy, and we talk of things going downhill. How much better to focus on the tree, and on those who seek to be kind and to help even in such small ways, and follow their example.