Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 8, 2013

As thieves attempt to steal holiday spirit, a card brightens the day

SAMANTHA PERRY
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— In a deja vu moment from four years ago, visitors to the Holiday of Lights in Bluefield last week saw the magic of Christmas dimmed due to malicious acts from metal thieves.

Bah humbug!

The thief or thieves who stole copper power cables last Sunday and Tuesday shut down 10 to 15 percent of the light displays. Those who have visited the Holiday of Lights know it is an extraordinary and magical exhibit. Losing that many lights casts a shadow on the show.

“Obviously, it’s very labor intensive,” Bluefield Parks and Recreation Director Dwight Godwin told the Daily Telegraph last week. “Ten to 15 percent may not seem like much, but it’s a lot of darkness. That’s when you don’t have something illuminated.”

One has to wonder about the character level of an individual who would steal from a community Christmas light show. Obviously a thief is a thief, but one would think that even disreputable folks might have some semblance of a moral compass. Stealing from a holiday display enjoyed by children, adults and senior citizens seems akin to purchasing a one-way, first-class ticket to the fiery depths of hell.

Who steals from a display set up in honor of a holiday recognizing baby Jesus’ birthday?

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City crews are working hard to repair damages to the Holiday of Lights and police are searching to find the perpetrators who stole the copper and dampened the Christmas cheer of the many visitors to the display.

Although the damage done by the criminals cost an estimated $2,000, Godwin vows the holiday spirit will continue to shine in Bluefield. “The message is that the show will go on, and it will be back at full capacity,” he said. “And we just ask everyone to be patient with us; because at the end of the day, donations gracious people provide allow us to put this on at no charge, and add displays each year.”

The thefts at the display are being investigated by the Bluefield, Va., Police Department, and officials hope the perpetrators will face serious prison time.

Bluefield, Va., Police Chief Harry Cundiff had a special holiday wish for the criminals.

“We’re hoping we can get them with at least felonies where they could get some prison time out of it,” he said. “We’re doing our best to have these fellows in jail in time for Christmas. That will be our gift to them. We’ve increased our patrols in certain areas. We’re utilizing everything that we can to catch these guys, and we’re keeping a very, very close watch.”

He also noted, “It’s disgusting because this is for both Bluefields and the area, and these thugs come by and ruin it for everybody.”

Agreed.

It’s amazing to see the lengths so many people will go to in order to steal metal for its resale value. One has to wonder if these individuals have ever put this much time and effort into securing and keeping an honest job.

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One morning a few weeks ago, during an early season, treacherous snowstorm, I pulled into my parking spot at the Daily Telegraph and saw an elderly woman carefully making her way to the front door. Like most primary and secondary roads, our lot was covered with snow and ice.

Gingerly stepping across the slick pavement, I made my way to the woman and offered her my arm. She reminded me of my grandmother, who once fell and broke her hip during a similar snowstorm many decades ago. Walking across the treacherous terrain, I imagined us sharing an adventure on Arctic tundra.

After entering the building, we chatted while sharing an elevator to the third floor. I went to the newsroom; she walked over to the classified advertising department. Upon her departure, one of the men in our circulation department escorted her to her car.

Last week, during a hectic, crazy, frustrating morning, I turned from my computer to check out the morning mail. In the mix of letters was a pink envelope, with beautiful cursive writing on the front. Opening the missive, I smiled. The words were a thank you for the escort across the parking lot.

She didn’t have to write a thank-you note. But her words, jotted in impeccable penmanship, brought a smile.

She appreciated the gesture of a steady arm while traversing slick pavement. And I appreciated her card of thanks.

There have been many occasions in my life when simple, small gestures have evoked thankfulness for the kindness of others. Regrettably, I did not write thank-you notes acknowledging these moments. Last week’s card, which came at a time when I needed it, has motivated me to do better.

A thank you sent via an email or tweet — underscored with a semi-colon and parentheses happy face — is fine, but it doesn’t evoke the same emotion of pen put to paper.

The pink card now rests proudly in a place of honor on my desk. It’s a reminder that the written word, penned with heartfelt emotion, will never go out of style.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTPerry.