‘Big Stupid Red Shield’

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I was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., on the edge of the borough near the Manhattan bridge. One of the benefits of living here was the view of the Manhattan skyline. Although we all knew the dangers and challenges within that skyline, we were captivated by its allure.

Almost daily, friends would say, “Did you see the city last night? The lights were incredible!”

While they went on about the way the Empire State Building’s top lights reflected the color of the season or nearest holiday, I couldn’t relate to the joy associated with that view. Why? Because New York City and its surrounding areas are largely made up of tall buildings. I lived in one of these buildings, and next to me was another building, not taller than the one I lived in, but just tall enough to block my view of Manhattan.

For 18 years of my life, I would open the blinds, hoping for a miracle—to see Manhattan. Instead, in front of my window, just tall enough to block my view of the city, was a building with a huge Salvation Army shield painted on its side. Daily, I would complain, “Mom, I would love to see the city, but I can’t because this Big Stupid Red Shield is in the way!”

I later found out that the Big Stupid Red Shield was an adult rehabilitation center that helped men of all ages fight the grip of addiction that often originated in the darkness behind the lights of the city I so dearly wanted to see.

Years later, I came to fall in love with that Big Stupid Red Shield and all that it stands for. Honestly, now that I’m a bit older, I’m happy that Big Stupid Red Shield blocked my view of the city. Maybe God used it as more than a symbol or a logo, but as a shield of protection, so that I didn’t fantasize too much about things that I wasn’t ready to see.

My hope is that now, as a Salvation Army officer, I can be that shield of protection for others.

from the desk of…Do I have to?

from the desk of…Do I have to?

By Diane O’Brien, Lt

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