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A month ago, we asked readers and community members to respond to recent vandalism which targeted the LGBTQ community and other residents with swastikas and vile literature.

We recounted Billings' proud history of uniting against swastikas and anti-Semitic literature nearly a quarter century ago during the "Not In Our Town" rallies. 

And as proud as Billings should be of its pioneering tradition, simply invoking the phrase again to meet the new challenge seems a bit like going through the motions rather than doing the hard work of trying to eradicate vandalism and hatred anew.

When The Gazette called for a response to the new challenge, we asked for letters, columns and new symbols. We got several dozen.

Some went out and found symbols already created by others that spoke to the issues. Terry Zee Lee, took the swastika and changed it into legs of different colors with the slogan of "Standing Together Billings 2018."

One person sent song lyrics, titled "Lord of Life." Another person sent the message: "Stop supporting the faggots." 

In maybe one of the most profound notes, a person who wished to remain anonymous suggested using a candle shining in the darkness. His rationale is powerful:

"It's something simple, accessible and beautiful. And also a nod to the menorahs from which this new symbol comes.

"I'm not much of a religious person myself, but I've been to Christmas Eve services where we are all given candles, and at the end of the service a single flame begins a chain reaction that ignites all candles in the sanctuary with a light that represents Christ's love.

"The metaphor of love spreading like fire, I believe, is a powerful one. We all have the spark to light someone else's candle. And no matter where hate rears its ugly head, a candle is always there to respond, standing vigil, keeping the darkness at bay.

"Any Billings resident, believing love is greater than fear, greater than hate, greater than ignorance, could place a candle in their window. Not merely a printed one, but an actual one. A symbol, a reminder, a beacon, that Love Lives Here."

Patrice O'Neill, producer and leader of the Not In Our Town movement, also reached out to talk about responses that other communities have taken to similar challenges, using the original "Not In Our Town" example of Billings. 

She stressed that every community must develop a response that's authentic. 

Many of the groups start in school, where incidents first begin. But, she says that using the Not In Our Towns materials, which have been developed through the "Not In Our Schools" initiatives makes sense. Schools are one of last areas where people of diverse views and cultures are still brought together, whether through sports events or even PTA meetings.

"Community life is still in schools," O'Neill said. "There's also courage on the part of young people. You see that now in the issue of gun control. That energy galvanizes and empowers the adults."

She spoke of how other communities are trying to grapple with many of the issues that have cropped up recently in Billings. 

She urged Billings to hold more events where diverse groups could get together just to meet and share cultures. 

"Knowledge of each other helps reduce stereotyping," O'Neill said. 

She said that knowing each other's stories also helps cultures understand commonalities. 

One community in Marin County, California, actually took pledges in which community members signed cards to say that they will do something meaningful in their area. The pledge cards say that they'll follow up and report six months later how they kept their promises. 

"This is not political and we've tried to emphasize that. We want to stay out of politics. Instead we speak about community values and we speak up when one of those values is violated," O'Neill said. "(The Billings story) remains powerful and we have to make sure we declare our values. The question is how do we do that effectively? How do we sustain that movement?"