Faithfully yours - It can happen here


Neil Strohschein
The Neepawa Banner

When you live in a small town, it’s easy to get the idea that you’re somehow immune from the bias, prejudice and racism you see in the big cities. So, when you wake up one morning to discover that sometime during the previous night, a person (or persons) unknown spray-painted offensive language on one sign, one new sidewalk and two buildings in your town, you sit up, take note and start thinking: “I guess it can happen here.”

Yes, it can; and yes, it has. Yes—it was Neepawa’s town sign, a newly paved sidewalk in one of our most popular sports fields, a building in an area where young children play and our Legion Hall. It didn’t happen in someone else’s town—it happened in our town. Yes, the defaced buildings will be restored and life will go on; but our not-so-little town will never be the same.

It won’t be because it can’t be. The response to these acts of vandalism has been second to none. Prominent people in our community, led by our mayor, condemned these acts in no uncertain terms. Three businesses agreed to accept donations to help restore the damaged sites; and I am quite certain that if given the opportunity, there will be many people in our town who will volunteer their time to help with the restorations.

As for the acts themselves, local law enforcement is taking them very seriously. Defacing public property is a serious act; and in Canada, using language that conveys bias, prejudice or hate against a specific individual or group is a “hate crime” that carries some harsh penalties. Those who committed these acts could be in serious trouble—something I am certain they will be told if (and when) they are identified, apprehended and charged by the RCMP.

So, we raise donor funds, we remove the offending slogans and we return the damaged items to their original state—then what? Do we go back to the way we were? No!! We don’t—because we can’t. This event has solidified our community. It has given us all a cause for which to fight. It has forced us all to look around and recognize the contribution every Neepawa resident has made and continues to make to the quality of life we all enjoy.

It has also been a reminder for people, like me, who moved to this community within the last 25 years. We came here because we found work here and we decided to make it our home; to raise our families here, to retire here, to die here and to be buried here. We love this community and we love the people who live here. If you offend a few of us, you offend all of us. We will stand together, we will speak with one voice and we will let the world know that in our town and its surrounding communities, acts like the one we saw last week will not be tolerated.

Instead, we will seek, by God’s grace and with his help, to do the two things Jesus asks all of us to do—love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves.

This love repels all forms of hate. It strengthens relationships. It creates loving families, strong friendships, healthy neighborhoods and caring communities. It is blind to color, gender, wealth, age and impairment. This love will help us put past hurts behind us and work together to make our community an even better place in which to live.