A picnic might seem a flimsy shield against the onslaught of violence and moral decay that assaults communities every day.
But at a bare minimum, a recent Beaufort County Ministerial Alliance event at Burton Wells Recreation Center helped raise awareness that there is a problem and people who want to fix it.
Further, a case can be made that a healthy community's best protection from the forces that consume and corrupt lives is, well, acting like a healthy community.
The Rev. Dr. Sam Spain, the alliance's president and the pastor of Lady's Island Baptist Church, said the idea of a community picnic came from a meeting with area ministers and the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office to discuss ways to stem crime in the Burton area. Spain said the ministers left the meeting with a plan to raise awareness of all problems in the area, including unemployment.
The picnic offered an opportunity for law enforcement and families to get to know each other and interact in a positive way.
Parents and community members chatted with deputies. Kids and teens checked out patrol cars and got to see that law enforcement is there to help. And everyone enjoyed good food and shared some laughs.
Other organizations have taken a similar tack to addressing violence.
The S.C. Morticians Association and Bikers 4 Life held an unusual "awareness ride" Nov. 24, assembling a motorcade of hearses and motorcycles for a trip from Garnett to Yemassee, where an anti-violence rally followed.
It included remarks from local government officials, representatives of the state Morticians Association and those who've lost loved ones to violence.
Community involvement is also the thrust of Citizens Against Violence Everywhere, an organization started six years ago by former Beaufort County Councilman Herb Glaze in reaction to a spate of violent deaths in northern Beaufort County. That organization also has held community-awareness events from time to time.
Neither CAVE, nor Bikers 4 Life have stopped the violence. Neither will the Ministerial Alliance. The menace will still bare its teeth, even if there are picnics every day.
But each organization makes for better communities by demonstrating violence has an alternative and will not be allowed to spread without resistance.
All the better if these demonstrations are more than a wallow in victimhood, and encourage people to watch over each other and cooperate with law enforcement to get bad guys off the street.
Certainly, among the many blessings we should be thankful for this holiday season are people who promote functional, peaceful and caring communities.