Apr 30, 2022 filed under Faith, Love.

license plates

I collect cool license plates. Photos of them, I mean. I creep along at 3 miles an hour in parking lots, one eye on where I’m going and the other on whatever plates have wandered in. I’ve been known to whip out my phone to snap the tag ahead of me at a stoplight. Or make my husband change lanes three times to get behind a plate I wanted to capture (I only did that once).

I love seeing what other drivers want to tell the world with their rolling mini-tweet. And I appreciate the wisdom and humor of them. It’s rare that I get to ask people why they chose the words they did because the cars are usually parked and the drivers elsewhere.

But when I do, it can get interesting. A license plate in a recreation center parking lot sported one word: REALITY. Better yet, it was plain black on a plain white background with the little word “Maryland” above. No stickers, no fancy plate-holder, just the word, stark as could be. To my surprise, the owner was sitting inside the car. He rolled down his window as I approached. Asked why he had chosen what he did, he looked at me for a moment like the answer was beyond obvious. But he humored me and said, “Reality…. It’s all around us.”

I don’t like to admit how often I fail to look reality full in the face as this man did. Too often my wishes and fears cloud over the beauty of what is happening right now.

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I chased, I mean followed, this car for miles waiting for the driver to park. When she finally pulled in a driveway, we had a chance to chat. It turned out she was a massage therapist making a house call, and I had followed her right into my own neighborhood! She said her business is bringing calmness to her clients, and she liked the play on words.

But even before I found out the story behind DOTCALM, her tag reminded me to get my mind off whatever I was distractedly worrying about and remember what St. Paul advised: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

A license plate changed my attitude! Which shows how something small can change someone’s day, which then reverberates in all sorts of good ways. Do we realize how much a smile can accomplish to lift someone out of a dark day, or how much a word of encouragement has the power to keep someone going who was tempted to give up on life? As tabernacles of the Holy Spirit, we have the power of God to communicate hope at every moment in a despairing world.

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This plate was outside a restaurant in Vancouver where my cousin Marilyn and I were enjoying lunch and about ten years of catching up.

I didn’t meet the author of this one, but it got me wondering what events in that person’s life caused them to choose this message. And could a license plate have inspired someone like Gandhi or Mother Teresa to think more deeply about forgiveness?

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

“People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway!” (St. Teresa of Calcutta)

And the easiest of all to remember, from the prolific quipster Anonymous: “Carrying a resentment is like letting someone live rent-fee in your head.”

Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting, or saying what happened was okay, or even seeing the person who hurt us ever again. It means giving the power to change people back to God where it belongs and making the most today of the great blessings God gives us at every moment.

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The tag below uses the District of Columbia flag (two bars and three stars) that’s in the middle of every DC plate as an equal-sign to say God is Love. I like this better than plates that have an obscure scripture reference, like one I saw recently that said LK 4-18 that you mean to look up when you get home but totally forget about when you pull in the driveway.

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One more for today.

I had driven south to give a Lenten Day of Reflection to the Greensboro NC Council of Catholic Women. When I saw this in a drug store parking lot I couldn’t get to my phone camera fast enough. Hundreds of plates have escaped me in the wild (too far away, moving too fast, seen while driving) and it’s a thrill to find such a great one “in captivity” on a parked car. I didn’t meet the driver, but here are some thoughts that could have inspired him:

“The heart’s purification begins by Faith. The heart will be perfectly purified if faith is brought to life through love.” (St. Thomas Aquinas)

“Faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” (Heb 11:1).

“Those whose faith is not carried out in actions…do not love me. And because they do not love me they do not love their neighbors, whom I love.” (God’s words to St. Catherine of Siena)

Hope you enjoyed these and that they gave you food for thought. Seen any good plates lately?

Love always,




12 Responses to “What I Learned from a License Plate”

  1. Mary Faye McAneny

    What a rich take on such a simple thing as a car tag…wonderful …thank you

  2. Pamela

    Thanks for sharing these Rose! You’ve inspired me to start looking for inspiration on license plates now too!
    I’ll take inspiration anywhere I can find it. 🥰

  3. Rose Folsom


    So enjoyed this. I will be keeping my eye more closely on license plates!

    + + +
    Love the license plate pics and story!

  4. roberta

    I’m a license plate lurker, too. But you’ve shared a deeper exploration and wisdom in stumbling across these mini-billboards. Thanks for the grand tour, Rose!

  5. Kathy

    Thanks Rose for sharing. I loved the license plates but even more enjoyed the quotes at the end of the last one. I think I will save them to reflect on.

  6. Anne Gordon

    I loved your study on license plates. I will glance at them in a whole new manner.
    Thanks so much Rose.

  7. Jayne Schmidt

    You inspire me! I live in north central Wisconsin and out motor home license plate was FR33ZE. It was a Green Bay Packers license plate. After reading yours, I believe I need to dig a little deeper.😁

    • Sharon

      Many thanks! I rarely understand the plates I see but hooefully I would have gotten these! Your commentary and quotes were helpful.

  8. Deleen Alley

    So very interesting!
    I will be looking more closely at license plates from now on.
    Maybe some inspiration from them. Thank you Rose!

  9. Sharon G Witzell

    I’ll have to start looking at messages in license plates. Never paid attention before!

  10. Connie

    Interesting commentary on license plates. The 4 Give, inspired me to do soul searching today because my sister made a demeaning comment to me. I am working on forgiving her.

  11. MaryAlice Riiz

    Thanks for sharing. I am always blessed as I read your messages. I always looked at other license plates. I’ll now have to look more closely as to their meaning and inspiration. Take care.
    MaryAlice Ruiz