Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I was in a restaurant near Mount Vernon several years ago. In a roped-off section near the entrance was a table with the initials G.W. carved deeply into the wood. A sign explained that this was George Washington’s initials, carved by him when he was a young surveyor.

There is a fine line between art, graffiti, and vandalism, and it is not always easy to know one from the other. Defacing public or private property is always wrong and should be discouraged, but there are occasions where there is an unmistakable beauty to some graffiti. I discovered the wonder of it while traveling around in different areas of the country.

Passing a park in a small town, I saw something from the corner of my eye I could not immediately identify. I turned around and went back. There was a rectangle of bright green grass where someone had used liquid fertilizer to write the name, Molly. The grass was taller and greener than the surrounding vegetation and was clearly visible from a long distance. I can imagine the school bus Molly rode each morning passed that way. Was the artist someone Molly knew, or was this the work of some shy young man who desperately wanted to know her?

In another town, I stopped at the approach to a newly constructed bridge. In carefully worded script were the words, Thad Is a Dork! Whoever wrote that one spent many hours with brush and paint, carefully inscribing her thoughts with loving care. I have a feeling she really didn’t really think of the him in that way, and I hope Thad was bright enough to know the difference.

I think every town should erect a sign or designate an area where teens can inscribe the names of the one they are dating, or hope to date. It is infinitely important that John loves Heather, or that Frank is MAD about Tiffany. I think it is important that you and I know that too.

The very best to John, Heather, Frank, Tiffany, and to Thad— even though he is a dork— and to the young woman who cared enough to tell him.

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