In the middle of the dark night vandals broke into Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, a Jewish graveyard in St. Louis, Missouri. Their objective was a small-minded one: spread a message of hate by toppling headstones and desecrating graves. As daylight dawned on the 170 headstones that were pushed or knocked over, the question on everyone's mind was "Why?"
The answer to this question would have to wait as those who committed this act of ignorance remained at large. As the search went on, others spoke again those words heard all too frequently in these kinds of situations: "prejudice," "hate crime," and "anti-Semitism."
Two days after the devastation, Eric Greitens, Governor of Missouri, called for volunteers to join him at the cemetery with the message, "Whoever did this slipped into a cemetery in secret to break things. We will stand together in the open to rebuild them, stronger."
Rich Cohrs, former LHM employee, contacted Don Hugo, a member of Zion Lutheran Church, with the invitation to join in with the community in an act of love. They donned their Men's NetWork caps and headed to the scene.
They were not prepared for what they witnessed. Hundreds of people responded to the call. Police were forced to block off streets and local businesses gladly relinquished their parking lots to accommodate the crowd. Vice-President Mike Pence and Governor Greitens addressed the group and then rolled up their sleeves and started raking the area clean.
Rich and Don joined the throng, waited in line to be searched by the Secret Service and finally entered into the cemetery to their assigned task of cleaning and polishing headstones. The Men's NetWork hats gave them a talking point with some they met. They spoke to Muslims, Jews, Christians, and some non-Christians as they labored side by side.
As they were leaving, Don had the opportunity to greet the Governor. This was a special moment for Don; he was Greitens' high school principal.
Men, it doesn't require an invitation from a governor to do acts of service and compassion in your community. Opportunities abound in the wake of tornadoes, storms, fires and, sadly, even stupid acts of vandalism and bigotry.
This April's upcoming Men's NetWork WORK DAY is a great example of a time when you can come together to serve those around you. The mere act of service is a witness of love to the community. Wearing the Men's NetWork cap provides an opportunity to jump start conversations.
Men, when the best of us step up, our community stands a little taller.
Hopefully, your community doesn't have to deal with fools who topple tombstones or cast hurtful slurs against racial or ethnic minorities. Still, your community may have its own set of issues it needs to address.
As you consider a possible service project for your community, remember you can turn a men's group effort into something extra-ordinary for this year's WORK DAY on April 29. Does anything out of the ordinary come to mind when you think of what your group might do this year?
If so, tells us about it by clicking here and sharing your thoughts.