So, needless to say, when I texted my dear friend and neighbor about what had happened, he immediately said that nothing triumphs over hate more than love.
On Aug. 19, I was taking the trash out and saw a swastika spray-painted on our trash can.
I had to look twice, thinking that maybe it was just the way the light was hitting it, but unfortunately it had nothing to do with the light. I ran inside to tell my husband, whose immediate reaction was to call the cops and not to touch anything. The police officer came over and kindly informed us that there have been no other acts of this kind, and we were most likely targeted by someone who obviously knew us.
We have lived in Havertown now for close to 20 years. We love our community. Our kids had a wholesome childhood with tons of friends that we all consider family. We live in a neighborhood where we call the kids in for dinner, sweaty from playing outside all day. Our community raises each other’s kids, and we always have felt nothing but love here.
So, needless to say, when I texted my dear friend and neighbor about what had happened, he immediately said that nothing triumphs over hate more than love. At that same moment, my other friend and neighbor came over and said we should paint smiley faces on all of our trash cans. That’s when we got the idea to tell everyone in the neighborhood what happened and that we could all join together and paint our trash cans in solidarity and positivity.
I had one stipulation in the note I passed around: You had to start with the sign of hate, to feel what that awful feeling was, and paint over it to see how much better and empowered that makes you feel. Not everyone who painted their cans did that — they said it was too hard to bring themselves to paint a swastika, so they just painted signs of peace.
In no time at all, we were inundated with pictures of trash cans being painted.
Our small town, which has very few Jewish people as residents, showed us they had our backs. I always knew this town was special, but they really shined in the shadow of this darkness.
The word has spread like wildfire.
I am getting responses from all over the world and interviews with more venues than I ever knew existed. I even got a pair of handmade mittens from an 87-year-old woman from Virginia who started a global ministry. She knits “luv mittens” for people to wear so that it will make you feel like we are all holding hands in peace.
This may not have started as a positive encounter, but the response with a positive reaction seems to have sparked something in so many people that I am gracious for all of the support that has come out over the last two weeks. Love does triumph over hate. Doing something positive makes people feel good. People really need that feeling right about now.
If anyone who reads this feels the urge to paint their trash cans, please send pictures. Another neighbor has been keeping track of them at havertownies.com/2016/08/hate-painted-over/.
Esther Cohen-Eskin is a Havertown-based artist.