• Ann Duchene

Signs of Life

Updated: Jan 10, 2019

Until recently, a dilapidated marquee-style sign stood in front of the our old building on the corner of Scott and Harrison streets, just off the main drag in downtown Grand Ledge. It kind of looked like a little brick wall, with a board in front for changing out messages.

I'm guessing nine out of ten people would agree... not terribly attractive.

If you've never had the chance, it's kinda fun to knock down a wall with a sledge hammer. Like a guilty pleasure.

So there I was, pounding away, and building some new muscle cluster I didn't know my arm had. And I got a surprise. I found a date, scrawled in pencil on a board inside the sign. It read, "5-27-1961". (You can see for yourself in the top photo.) The date was written not just once, but twice. As if the builder had to make sure I couldn't miss exactly when this thing was made.

I felt like I had opened a strange time capsule. In 1961 my dad turned eleven, and an average home in our country cost $12,500. It was the year the Berlin wall went up, shredding hope and hearts one layer of brick at a time. (If you're up for tears, check out some of these pictures, published by Life magazine. There's this one that shows policemen on the free side of the wall, helping a seventeen year old orphan boy squeeze through twisted strands of barbed wire. It gets me every time.)

That got me thinking. The little wall I'm knocking down? It had a totally different purpose. Instead of ripping communities apart, it helped bring them together. I imagine it congratulated newlyweds and announced picnics. Maybe it let everyone know what the pastor would be talking about next week, or spelled out a pithy phrase to think about. Whatever it said, it definitely told passersby when and where to show up if they wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves.

So what started out on my to-do list looking like this...

1. Buy a sledge hammer at Ace Hardware

2. Make sure the electrical wires running to the sign are turned off

3. Knock down sign

…ended up with someone from long ago showing me the truth of being connected, grateful, and aware.

Connected to a history of people who have cared about this community and spent their lives making it better. Grateful for the fact that the people I love have never had to wriggle through cruel spines of wire, praying they will survive this attempt to live free. Freshly aware that suffering is not a thing of the past. Even our little town is sprinkled with people, desperate to make it through one more day because hope is just about gone.

So this coming spring, when new grass covers the spot where that old brick sign stood for the past fifty-seven years, I hope we all remember what that sign really stood for.

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