Living life in an urban environment means you sometimes have to deal with problems. Graffiti has only happened to me once in all the 29 years I have lived near Chicago. My first reaction to the garden vandalism that happened this month [see right] was hurt and anger. I work so hard to help our neighborhood by beautifying it, that it really crushed me to think that some kids want to mess with it. And then it struck me – they must not know me personally – and maybe they want attention because they do not get it from where they need it. If they really knew me, they’d know that a garden is more than a garden; it is a way to make a difference. And if they wanted attention, real attention, all they would have to do is stop in at my house and I would talk to them and share my garden with them.
Standing up to make a difference has been difficult at times, but if more of us banded together to help one another, it could truly take our neighborhoods and urban living to a better place. Whenever something negative happens to me, I try to figure out how to turn it around. Whining about it never helps, but action makes a difference. So when the vandals hit (after I cursed a few choice words) I decided to take action.
Power spraying off the paint is what everyone does, but how would that show goodness and inspiration? When a friend referred me to the amazing local mural artist, Peter Thaddeus, I knew we had a better solution: inspiring the community with the “make a diff” attitude. He worked for a few days at painting this absolutely amazing mural which is AWESOME. In fact, I’m calling Peter “Awesome” now. Whenever someone drove, walked, or bicycled by while he was painting, they would shout out, “Dude, yer awesome!!” And indeed, his work is so very beautiful. I asked him to include an impressionistic view of a black-eyed susan (the city’s flower), echinacea, two butterflies, and the words “MAKE A DIFF”. He did an astounding job. When he finished I got a little teary-eyed and hugged him.
Life throws challenges at you all the time whether you live in an urban environment or not; it’s how you live up to those challenges that can change your life for the better. Make lemons out of garden graffiti lemonade and try to connect with people. Inspire your neighborhood to work together to make a difference at every opportunity you have. Because life is short and we need to share this world we live in.