As the homeowners of The Wall (of Love) in Westfield, we wanted to reach out to the community. We have had two signs on our fence on Rahway: “Love trumps hate.” (a sign we had up in various forms since summer) and The Wall (of Love), a sign we put up before Valentine’s Day, when we gave away dozens of doughnuts, as well as coffee and hot chocolate to people in the community. These signs are now surrounded by almost 300 hearts designed by residents of Westfield and surrounding towns.

The hearts are about love and respect — for everyone, for our country, for our free press, for our families, and so much more. Our goal has been to express our values and find a common ground for people at a time when there is, and has been, so much hatred and divisiveness.       

There’s been an incredible outpouring of support for our Wall (of Love) as well as some hate. While people of all ages stop by daily to design hearts, there have also been people screaming F-bombs and gay slurs out their cars as they drive past and there have been nasty anonymous notes (such as “We hate your sign,” “This wall is an embarrassing eyesore” and “Your sign is pathetic and ridiculous”). The signs have been vandalized with spray paint, stolen four times, shot with Air Soft bullets and trolled anonymously online.

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Yet it was one dissension received this past weekend — printed neatly and courteously on a heart and left for us on our doorstep — that has made us pause and think more about the loving message we are making a statement about. This one note also reinforced, in our minds, the need for everyone — in our town and in our country — to talk to each other with respect (e.g. not screaming obscenities out a car window), no matter what party a person supports, in order for true progress to occur.

Here’s what the note had to say: “In the article in The Star Ledger, you say it’s not political, but the word ‘trump’ in ‘love trumps hate’ makes it political. Correct? In a true spirit of love, how about substituting say: ‘wins over’, ‘beats’, or ‘overrides!’. That would be truly loving and unifying. ❤a neighbor 3 streets over.”

While the word “trump” with a lower case “t” has been in existence long before Donald Trump became popular, we have given this note much thought — and in the spirit of bringing our community together — we’ve decided it’s time to change our sign’s wording, though not the message. We’re not sure what it’s going to say yet, but we hope that doing this will encourage all residents — no matter what their politics — to walk or drive by our Wall (of Love) and smile. Maybe they’ll even stop to design a heart or two and talk with other residents passing by or putting up their own hearts. (Unplanned friendly conversations have become commonplace in front of our Wall (of Love).)

Because in the end, this Wall (of Love) has become so much more than us; it has become about the people of Westfield — regardless of race, creed, country of origin, skin color, sexual orientation or sexual identity — the common values we hold, and the love and respect we have for each other. We hope that this love and respect for each other can spread to towns across the country — and throughout our country as a whole. Because that is, we believe, what makes Westfield great — and has always made America great.