The following excerpt is from a 2004, Chicago Tribune story about a young man who was a graffiti artist:
Cinda Cason never understood the dangers her son courted until he died. She never grasped his drive to climb higher, go farther and mark his name in spray paint, ink and shoe polish.
She knew of his long career as a graffiti artist, fought a losing battle against it, hoped he would someday walk away.
But she never knew of his trips through tunnels where trains sped by, or how he climbed a 200-foot crane to write his name on the top, or found the strength to mount an overpass on the Stevenson Expressway just so he could leave his mark on steel…
A longtime fixture among Chicago’s group of graffiti taggers who illegally write their names on walls, buildings, platforms, buses and trains, Berry was killed in the early morning hours of Aug. 16 . He was hit by a northbound CTA Red Line train near the Morse Avenue station. The death was ruled accidental. He was 22.
One of his friends and fellow graffiti artists said of Berry, “He climbed to the highest spots. He had guts. His name was known. His name will still be known.”
Berry’s mother didn’t approve of his graffiti work, and she often tried to convince him to stop. She reminded him that there were other ways for him to display his considerable talent. She warned him that he would end up in jail. Her son would simply reply: “I want to leave my mark.”
I can identify with the impulse. I’m not exactly a “Type A” kind of guy, but even I have this desire to be known for something. I want to leave my mark in a different way. I want to be respected. Interesting: the other way of saying that is “I want to have a ‘good name.’”
This urge to have a “good name” helps us understand our passage for this Sunday. Apparently the name of Jesus matters, too. Some people think they’re going to toss it around for their own purposes and find that Jesus’ name is not to be taken lightly. I think it’s a lesson that we could learn as well.