The Swastika

I was riding my bike on a warm, fast approaching hot, morning.  This morning to be exact.  No one was willing or able to go with me but I needed to go.  I needed to feel something, something different than what I was feeling.   I hoped to pedal the cobwebs out of my head and the horror out of my heart.  One being easier than the other.

After about 25 miles of pedaling, the cobwebs were about gone.  The horror, I discovered (and already knew) couldn’t be outrun.  I saw two women in the middle of the bike trail.  A large square of the trail was wet.  I saw bicycles lying in the grass, they had ‘something’ in their hands.  The first thought I had was that someone had been hurt in some way.   I slowed to a stop and asked if everything was okay.

They said no.  Someone had painted a swastika on the trail and they were trying to clean it off.  From the looks of the size of the wet square, it was quite large.  I offered to help.  They both smiled and thanked me.  They said no one else had offered to help or expressed any feelings regarding what they told them had happened.  I parked my bike in the grass and took the scrub brush.  These ladies, Lori and Andrea, had come prepared.  They had come across the swastika earlier in the week and come back today, their bicycles laden with buckets, scrub brush, a cleaner to break up the paint, rags, and a willingness to go out of their way to clean up a little bit of ignorance, and hate.

We introduced ourselves while we scrubbed and rinsed.  One would go get water from the creek, one was using a razor to pick the paint out of the asphalt, I continued working with the scrub brush.  These ladies were determined to erase this mark of hate.  We talked about the crisis in America.  Not once did we discuss politics or differences.  What we discussed, brought together by our willingness to combat ignorance, was community, compassion and change.  We acknowledged that we don’t have to see eye to eye to all be a part of the same force.  The force that comes together to clean up hate.  The force that talks, and talks, and talks some more.  Not to convince the other to think the same, but to understand, and work together while we learn about our differences.

At one point we stood looking at the large area.  It appeared that the swastika was gone but it was difficult to tell with the pavement still wet.  They were making plans to come back out later to check it.  We stood around talking.  Strangers just minutes before, never aware of the other’s existence.  Maybe we didn’t know one another, before.   Yet – I do know Loris and Andreas exist.  I know I am not alone in the exasperation and uncertainty of what to do to make a difference.  They voiced this….this question of not knowing what to do.  But they are doing something.  Today they erased a mark of hate and ignorance.  In a place of tranquility and peace someone had tried to force ‘us’ to recognize their hostility.  Lori and Andrea said no.  They refused to let that mark remain.  In doing so, they left their mark.  Maybe the world won’t ‘see’ the mark they left.  Because their mark is in the act of caring and restoring.  Not destroying and trashing.  That swastika did not bring people together to hate openly and freely.  It brought people together who openly and freely said no to its message.

I felt the difference.

And though the horror of this world cannot be forgotten once it has been acted out, the mercy, morality and rightness of this world cannot be forgotten either.

And it is with this belief, that every good thing we do, no matter the size of the act-does make a difference.

The horror I felt in my heart this morning was not eradicated.  But hope was once again bolstered and emboldened.

My day was made better by people who care.  And that’s the very best of what we can do for one another.









36 thoughts on “The Swastika

  1. May there always be people like you, Andrea and Lori to rub out hate, willing to take action and not just talk……or ignore. Thank you for your example and for holding to the values that I want to believe most of us still hold dear.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I believe that you are right Chuck. That most of us do hold on to these values. Andrea and Lori reminded me today that action does not always have to be “large” (though I felt what they did was). It’s a life set, those values that we believe in, that will keep us going. And getting better.


  2. That was a good illustration of when faced with a huge problem, chipping away at the edges creates a little solution. Then you wrote about it and spread the good message. Now we all have a little bit of the solution and will spread that through our family and friends. Good work by Lori, Andrea and you, Colleen. Let’s keep the energy going. Be kind to one another and do what you can. It all impacts our humanity.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I have a framed poster in my room that is old and worn, as it has moved around with me for decades. The words are the first thing that I gaze upon when I awake and the first thing that I read before I start my day. I seem to be sharing them often here of late, but your moving story moves me to pass them on to you. You do indeed exemplify them. “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” – Helen Keller. The World is a better and more beautiful place because you are in it. Thank-you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ellen, thank you for your very kind words. I thought of this quote when the ladies were talking to me about how they weren’t sure what to do but they knew they had to do something, and this, they could do. I still give them credit for initiating this ‘action’. And allowing me to join them.


  4. A beautiful story of acting from a place of love. Each act matters.
    Thank you for being in action, taking the time to communicate with others and sharing your experience here.
    I especially like this quotefrom your post.
    “Not to convince the other to think the same, but to understand, and work together while we learn about our differences.”


    • I saw a quote today, I know I will mess it up. But it said something about there is too much evil going on to think there isn’t, and there is too much good that exists to think it doesn’t. Stopped me in my tracks.


  5. while the act itself may seem small in the scheme of things, ti was huge in it’s impact and gesture.many people may have passed by and not wanted to get involved, or were too scared or saddened to act.

    you each have found people who share a common sense of what’s right and wrong, even without knowing each other’s differences. kindness, empathy, and compassion cross all boundaries, and details fall by the wayside. this was an amazing post and you are amazing people to have shown such caring snd kindness toward other people, your community and the world at large.


    • Thank you Beth. THe ladies were disheartened by those who had not shown concern about what they were cleaning up. I could see that when I joined them, how people didn’t even respond when each time one of the ladies explained we were cleaning a swastika off of the pavement. I could see their faces falling with each lack of response. We did acknowledge that some may not have heard, and each may easily have been processing their own things.

      I think the three of us took comfort from and strength, from the fact that we did want to work together to make this small change. And in doing so learned something about someone we had not known moments before.

      We did find that.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. There is no act too small to counteract the symbol and hate behind it. I am frankly surprised that no one else was wiling to help Lori and Andrea. I would know that you would, Colleen, and God bless you. Our hearts are being pummeled! Small acts of support running counter to the aims of racist individuals or groups DO make a difference if we’ll all stand up.


    • I agree Debra. I think each act of kindness, willingness to help with change, willingness to LEARN about differences, all add up.

      When no one else showed interest or concern the 3 of us did discuss this. We didn’t want to assume what anyone else was going through at that time, we felt some didn’t even hear us (ear buds?, wind?, etc). We decided we didn’t want to assume that anyone was being indifferent, but busy, in a hurry, using their exercise to process out their own problems, and maybe even thinking…good for those women! 😉


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