I poured a cup of coffee, walked to the front of the house, opened the door and went out onto the front deck to sit and bask in the sunlight. It was finally a nice day. The sun was shining. There wasn’t any humidity. And after a long weekend of rain, it was nice to sit and relax with a cup of coffee on a great summer day before I headed into the office.
I sat down in my chair and took a sip of the coffee. I was looking out over the marsh across the street from my house when out of the corner of my eye, I noticed it. I immediately put my coffee cup down on the table, walked down my front steps and out to the end of my driveway and stared in disbelief at what had happened; my New York Giants mailbox was lying on the ground.
My day was ruined! I was angry; pissed off would be a better way to describe it! As I bent over to pick up the beat up mailbox, I looked around at every other house on the street and my ire at the situation grew even more. My mailbox was the only one on the entire street that had been smashed. I picked up the main part of the mailbox, brought it back into my yard and propped it up on the concrete wall next to the front steps and went back into the house.
It is no secret that I am a New York Giants fan. I have been all my life. I also realize that I live outside of Boston where the fans are extreme supporters of the local sports franchises. I understand that and if this act of vandalism had happened back in the first week of February, then I might have been a little more understanding of such a targeted attack on my personal property. It would have made sense. It would have still been wrong but it would have made sense. But there is no rational explanation for this type of vandalism to take place in August. It is six months after the Super Bowl and for my mailbox to have been damaged now defies conventional logic or explanation because the argument about it “happening in the heat of the moment” has long passed.
My wife tried to quell my frustration by offering up the explanation of just a couple of “stupid teenagers out being teenagers.” I could have accepted her explanation if every other mailbox on the street had been knocked down or destroyed along with my own, but that was the first thing I had looked for; no other mailboxes had been touched. Someone, possibly one of my neighbors, came to my front yard in the middle of the night and decided it was their right to destroy my property because they felt a New York Giants mailbox was an inappropriate item to be displayed in my yard.
The problem stems from the fact that these acts of vandalism aren’t isolated events. Whenever a professional sports team wins a championship, hooligans take to the streets and destroy property. They light cars on fire, tip cars over and they smash windows of area stores. It is a growing problem throughout the entire country and it illustrates how the immoral minority can ruin the celebration for the rest of us who appropriately support our professional sports franchises.
Unfortunately, for me, the mob mentality has reared its ugly head and made a statement to someone in my community that “it is okay to destroy things in the name of your home town heroes!” This is the wrong message to send to our children. Not only do I disagree with the message, I have done everything I can to teach my children that this type of disobedience and destruction is wrong. I can only hope and pray that my words and my actions won’t fall upon deaf ears as my kids grow older and are immersed in the sights and sounds of rowdy celebrations.
But in the end, it was more than just the mob mentality and the inappropriate behavior of some nameless, faceless individual, because once I came to terms with the logical arguments and rationalizations for the vandalism; I realized that I was still angry that it had occurred. A couple of days after the mailbox had been smashed, I was frustrated with myself over how irate I still was over the incident; so I took a cold, long, hard look at myself in the mirror to find out why this act of vandalism had irritated me so much. I had to resolve my anger because in the end, it was only a mailbox.
After a couple hours of introspection, it became crystal clear. On Christmas Day in 2004, I opened a present from my wife and my son. It was the New York Giants mailbox. They gave me the mailbox because they knew it was hard for me to live in an area where I may have seen four Giants games a season unless the Giants made the playoffs. They gave it to me as a reminder that fans of teams live everywhere around the country, not just in the home town. And they gave it to me because they love me and they knew that my affinity for my sports teams is a big part of my life.
In the afternoon of that Christmas Day, I went out to my frozen, snow covered yard and I replaced my old mailbox with my New York Giants one I had received from my wife and son. For the next three and a half years, that mailbox would act as a welcome home sign for me each and every day when I came home from work. Whenever I turned down my street and saw the blue helmet with the “NY” emblem on the side, a warm grin would find its way on to my face because I knew I was home. But not only was I home, I knew the most important people in my life were just up the street waiting for me to arrive. And as I parked my car in front of that mailbox every day, I was reminded of that Christmas morning when my wife and son gave me a quirky little gift that gave me so much joy.
I was angry because someone tried to steal those memories from me. When I came home after the mailbox had been vandalized, I turned the corner and my welcome home sign was gone and in its place was a scary feeling that I have to think twice before I can ever display any items in my front yard that are important to me or my family. It is a horrible feeling to think that someone would be willing to come onto my property in the middle of the night and destroy my personal property. If someone is willing to go that far to make a point, what is going to stop them from going any further in the future?
My family picked up the pieces of my New York Giants mailbox and the remnants are out in my front yard next to my front steps and it will stay there. It may be battered, tattered and a little worse for wear than it was a couple of weeks ago but it still works; it is still our mailbox. When my son asked me if we were going to get a new mailbox, I told him that we would not. The New York Giants mailbox will remain in our front yard as a statement that my family will not be intimidated by the neighborhood bully. We will not be forced to be afraid of what someone may or may not do to our property in the future because in the end, it is just a mailbox; it can be replaced!
The other morning, I walked past the mailbox and remembered what I had always been told in church, “forgiveness means to let go of the anger.” I stopped in front of the mailbox and said to myself, “I forgive whoever did this. They know not what they do.” And just like that, my anger was gone.
The irony in this situation is that someone tried to intimidate my family and make us afraid of our individuality and it backfired. My wife and I have spoken with our kids about possessions being exactly that; possessions! The people who performed this act of vandalism cannot steal my memories or the meaning behind the mailbox and in retrospect; he or she has given us an opportunity to teach our children another lesson about right and wrong. The memory of having our personal property vandalized and the lessons we have taught our children about the responsibilities we have to ourselves and to our neighbors in a free society have only made our family stronger; and through our resolve, our anger has been replaced by peace of mind.