Some Build, Some Destroy

by: Bonnie Wilkins Overcott

While contemplating a sand sculpture contest, harder truths about the nature of humanity, and the current U.S. administration, are unveiled…


Years ago I took my young son to one of my favorite events of the Minneapolis Aquatennial — the sand sculpture contest on the shores of Lake Calhoun. The sculptures ranged from the amateur to the fabulous. They were built by architecture firms, ad agencies, construction firms and other corporate employees who wanted to do some team building while contributing to their city’s annual summer festival.

Castles were a common theme. There were also ogres, mermaids, antique cars, sea monsters and contorted human forms. The sculpture contest was a chance for teams of adults to leave their imprisoning cubicles in air conditioned offices, don some casual clothes, and escape to the lakeshore during Minnesota’s all-too-short summer to express their inner child.

As my son and I viewed a particularly complex castle, a little boy, perhaps eight or nine years old with an unruly shock of blond hair, began furiously kicking the castle, destroying all the areas he kicked. One astonished woman asked him, “Where is your mother?” “I don’t have a mother,” retorted the boy, and he kept up his kicking and ruination. No one, including me, felt comfortable stepping in and stopping him.

My son looked at me and asked, “why is he doing that?” The only answer I could conjure up was to tell him that “some people build and some people destroy.”

Frivolous endeavors, meant to entertain and delight before the winds and rains washed them back to mere grains of sand on a beach, the sand sculptures were intended to be temporary. Their destruction by the child, while disconcerting, didn’t seem that serious at the time.

However, now thirty years later, that child is an adult. Our world is filled with angry adults bent on destruction, and more often than not, they destroy that which was intended to be permanent. They destroy what teams of people have worked tirelessly together to build, such as governments, families, cities, and civil societies that were intended to last, and be improved upon by future generations. Parents don’t have children to love and cherish for six years only to have them shot to pieces in a classroom by an angry man. The architects and builders of the Twin Towers didn’t intend for them to be a temporary fixture in the New York City skyline. For one hundred years citizens, labor unions, politicians and presidents of all parties have tried to enact bold legislation guaranteeing American citizens health insurance. When the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, it wasn’t intended to be taken apart and dismantled a few years later.

The answer I gave to my son’s question, “why is he doing that?” wasn’t adequate in my mind. An adequate response would have been to step in and stop the sandcastle’s annihilation. An adequate response would have been to intervene in each child’s life, determine why they are so angry and work to resolve their anger. Recently, three brave men intervened on an Oregon train to protect someone else’s daughter from an angry, misguided adult. Two of those men paid for their intervention with their lives. Oftentimes, it’s neither easy nor safe, to take a stand for something. Perhaps that’s why many of us don’t. Nevertheless, my original observation is still accurate: some people build, and some people destroy.



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