It’s one thing to pay lip service to the warm-fuzzy aphorism “When the world gives you lemons, make lemonade”; it’s quite another to put this sentiment into action, but that’s what our local library did last month. Here’s what happened–and what I took away from it:
Last month, someone smashed eight windows in our local public library. I happened to go to the library later that day and saw the broken windows as well as glass all over the sidewalk, which made it dangerous to walk into the library. There was also glass inside the library, forcing them to close off several aisles–including my favorite nonfiction area with all the positive psychology books, which is what I’d gone to the library hoping to check out!
Later that day, the library staff put up some plywood, which was an eyesore, but at least it protected the library from the cold and rain. A few weeks later, they closed the library for a day and replaced the windows.
Crimes like this almost never happen in our quiet little town, which is populated mainly by beach-loving retirees, so I was shocked, saddened, and perplexed by the vandalism–especially when I learned that it wasn’t the work of a teenage troublemaker but an adult. Although I consider myself a fairly creative person, I simply couldn’t imagine why anyone would turn their destructive wrath against–of all places–the public library.
(I later learned that the vandal was a disgruntled patron who’d been banned from the library for inappropriate behavior, so they broke the windows as revenge–thereby proving that the library had been correct in their judgment.)
Anyway, on to the positive side of the story:
While waiting for the windows to be repaired, the community wanted to cover the broken windows not just with plywood but also with something uplifting. So the library set up a selection of pens, paints, crayons, and other markers next to eight large panels (the size of the windows), each with a question for people to respond to, such as:
- What makes you laugh?
- What is your favorite book, character, or author?
- What do you love about where you live?
- What do you want to share with the world?
Community members of all ages soon filled these panels with uplifting pictures and words. For instance, here are a few responses to the last question:
- Animals are awesome!
- Don’t judge somebody just because they’re small.
- I’m already sharing my amazing kids who contribute so much to their community.
- That wonderful feeling of peace when the first thought of the day is “Thank you.”
- Purple is the best color ever!
The panels stayed up for several weeks–filling with more and more positive pictures and uplifting artwork–until the new windows were installed.
It may sound trite, but this experience really did remind me that even an act of senseless destruction can lead to something extremely positive. I know that, unfortunately, there will always be idiots–whether it’s a small group of hate-filled extremists or a single deranged individual carrying out a personal vendetta. And yes, they can cause damage. They can create a dangerous environment. And they can even cause a temporary shut-down of positive services (such as a library providing free books, art, and education).
But in the end, positivity wins. Hope wins. Goodness wins. Laughter and joy and learning and growth and art and creativity win. Love wins.
In this case (and many other cases), the spirit of positivity didn’t just balance out the destruction–it overwhelmed it! One act of destruction led to hundreds of positive messages seen by thousands of people. And this is the spirit that’s going to live on–long after the windows are replaced and the messages are moved. This is what prevails. This is what lasts. And, ultimately, this is what matters.