In two days we celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday of gratitude and appreciation. It launches the holiday season of generosity and joy.

Last year at this time, GOOD Morning Wilton tried to bring attention to organizations that help others in need, through a series we called the “Season of Giving.”  This year, we’re going to focus on something at the very core of the season:  compassion, kindness, and respecting your fellow man.

We’ve created a campaign called “NO Place for Hate.” From now through December, we’re going to be highlighting individuals and organizations that help further that mission, who stand for what is GOOD in our community, who promote understanding, and lifting one another up rather than smashing each other down.

Earlier this fall Wilton High School was the site of a despicable incident–a student allegedly carved a swastika into a locker in what police believe to be a purposeful act targeting Jewish students. Then, only two weeks after, came more awful news–second swastika was found at the High School.

Just last week, in neighboring Ridgefield, Ridgefield High School principal Dr. Stacey Gross announced that her school was the location of a similar desecration:  two swastikas were found spray-painted at the school.

In the days following the WHS events, I personally struggled with how to respond. Before starting GOOD Morning Wilton, I had a 3-year run writing opinion for Wilton Patch. But with GMW, I’ve focused more on news journalism; any opinion we’ve published has come from other people. Understandably, I have a personal, private reaction to the symbol of hate–I’m Jewish. It was jarring and upsetting, especially given how I’ve written in the past about what I’ve experienced since moving to Wilton–almost universal acceptance, understanding and respect.

That is, until now.

The thing is, this issue isn’t just about symbols that represent only anti-Semitic vitriol. It doesn’t just affect Jews. Anything that stands for demeaning hatred and superiority over other people is something that strikes out at all of us. We all become lesser people when such actions are allowed to happen unchallenged and unanswered, when they are accepted and shrugged off.

What I found to be just as upsetting as the appearance of the swastikas were the posts I saw pop up in the days after on social media from a handful of WHS students, blandly suggesting the swastikas were “no big deal,” or that they were “just symbols.” Aside from WHS principal Bob O’Donnell and Wilton schools’ superintendent Kevin Smith, only one public official, state senator Toni Boucher, spoke out in the days after to condemn the swastikas. The whole incident has been almost forgotten now.

When we allow intolerance and hatred to remain unchecked, we give it a place to set down poisonous roots. I can’t imagine that’s the kind of place Wilton wants to be. Each time we stand up to say, ‘Hatred has no place in Wilton,’ we solidify our community as a place of respect, as a home that will not allow people to be demeaned. Each time we teach our children that standing up for others is what it means to be civilized, we ensure that Wilton will be a place of conscience and decency for years to come.

In speaking with my rabbi following the WHS swastika, she talked about how defeating it is for a group to take on the ownership of whatever problem is inflicted on it–how anti-Semitism becomes a burden Jews feel they have to take on to counter or to solve. Shouldering that burden detracts from whatever the Jewish community as a whole is able to positively achieve. The same holds true for any group that encounters bias, prejudice and hatred.

How much stronger can we be as a community if we are able to lift up the various peoples of different origins, abilities, orientations and beliefs? How much better can it be when we can constructively promote contributions people make to the community, rather than spending time and energy coping with hatred? How much more emboldened will we be when more of us stand up and say, “We do not accept hate here in Wilton.”

Wilton is becoming a community of more diversity…slowly. There are different houses of worship, new surnames and more varied languages spoken here now. Embracing differences, celebrating them makes our community stronger.

We ask for your help in finding examples of people and organizations that exemplify that kind of tolerant community Wilton aspires to be. At GOOD Morning Wilton, we believe celebrating the GOOD not only helps beget more GOOD, it helps defeat the hate.

Because certainly, Wilton is NO Place for Hate.

If you’d like to nominate an individual or organization to be profiled under the “NO Place for Hate” banner, or if you have other ideas for promoting the campaign, please get in touch with us via email.