Think of our nation

as a sand sculpture

In June, my wife and I and long-time friends from Denver visited Atlantic City to see the World Championship of Sand Sculpting. As I watched the artists make their sculptures, I thought of how these creations made out of sand could serve as metaphor and model for our nation in 2013.

Wynton Marsalis, the gifted jazz musician/composer once said, "An art form can influence your thinking, your feeling, the way you dress, the way you walk, how you talk, what you do with yourself."

Our beloved United States is in need of resculpting. Rather than pointing at any one group of people - a particular political party, religion, race, region, sexual orientation or educational or economic class, etc. - and blaming "them" for the problems of our nation, let us instead dare to say that all of us are in need of retooling, retreading and resculpting.

May we think of ourselves as artists and our nation as being like the sand that can be shaped and reshaped and rebuilt when hurricanes of all kinds knock us down. And, when we get discouraged and angry and come close to giving up on our nation, its leaders and ourselves, let us remember the art forms those sand sculptors created in Atlantic City.

May they influence our thinking and our acting.

REV. GILBERT H. CALDWELL

Asbury Park

Stiffen penalties more

for texting and driving

Recently signed legislation increasing the penalties for using handheld devices while driving might be headed in the right direction, but to someone who can afford a cell phone (and the monthly charges), a $200 fine for the first offense is not going to be a deterrent.

The second-offense fine of $400 may give some would-be texters or talkers pause. And admittedly the maximum fine for a third offense of $800 may be a deterrent.

But using such devices while driving is tantamount to pointing a loaded gun at someone and should be dealt with in the serious manner that such a crime requires.

Instead of probably meaningless fines I suggest the following: First offense, loss of driver's license for one month. Second offense, loss of driver's license for one year. Third offense, permanent loss of driver's license.

I feel reasonably confident that a few of these second and third offenses - if widely publicized - would go a long way toward preventing accidents, injuries, and deaths.

JERRY LUBER

Mays Landing

Sports contracts

are out of hand

I have been a diehard sports fan all my life. I watch every sport that's on. It could be an arm-wrestling championship, and I'll tune in.

But the amount paid for salaries and buyouts is so out of hand.

I was reading the paper and watching TV, and in a five minute span I read that the Flyers have to pay Ilya Bryzgalov $23 million over the next few years just to buy him out. Then the TV had an ad urging us to donate money because one out of four children is hungry.

I also read that Social Security is considering cutting disability payments for those with career-ending afflictions.

How can this be justified? How can one person's suffering be ignored and someone else get paid so much without any moral consideration?

I'm not picking on just one player. It's going on in every sport. It's time to even out the pay scale. Renegotiate contracts - and put a percentage toward feeding hungry children and helping the homeless.

Have a heart. Spread the wealth.

BOB TURANO

Egg Harbor Township

Same-sex marriage

is a personal decision

I don't always agree with Gov. Chris Christie, but he has hit the nail on the head with his stance on same-sex marriage. He says the people should decide. I agree 100 percent. If you don't want to marry someone of the same sex, then don't. End of story. Simply legalize it, and let the people decide for themselves.

Of course, that is not quite what the governor really meant. What he meant was let's put legalizing same-sex marriage on the ballot in November and let the majority of the people decide for everyone else.

RICHARD G. GOBER

Ventnor

Sandy took everything,

but I don't need clothes

I lost everything I own in Hurricane Sandy. The kind people I work with gave me clothes, which I thanked them for - and then donated. They tried to be kind, but it just hurt. I had no home, no furniture and no food.

It hurt even more because they continually asked me for money they were collecting to give to others for silly things, when I had nothing.

Since Sandy, I know how alone I am. And I am still in recovery, which no one can understand.

So if someone is homeless - no clothes, please. We have nowhere to put them.

DAWN BRAZENOR

West Creek

Dorothy barbecue

is a great tradition

The Dorothy Volunteer Fire Company has always had a barbecue on the first Sunday in June. We just celebrated our 56th annual one. I have attended every one since moving here. It is one of the biggest and best around and gets bigger every year.

Just ask around - anyone will tell you. While I was selling tickets for our event, I had compliments from all stating they wouldn't miss it.

We had games, hay rides and Smokey Bear, and the biggest thrill for the kids was the dunking barrel. We also had entertainment from our local disc jockey Ed. Any kind of music you wanted to hear was requested and played.

It takes months putting this barbecue together - lots of work from our fire chief, Robert Gibney and his wife, Carla, plus our firefighters, emergency medical technicians, ladies auxiliary and many others who put in time and donations for this special day. And thank you to all who came out and supported our fire company. Job well done.

JOAN PRINCE

Dorothy