Day 24 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge:
plaque (plak), n. 1. a thin, flat plate or tablet of metal, porcelain, etc. intended for ornament, as on a wall, or set in a piece of furniture. 2. a platelike brooch or ornament, esp. one worn as the badge of an honorary order. 3. Anat. Zool. A small, flat formation or area. 4. Dentistry. A gelatinous accumulation of bacteria and salivary mucin that forms on the teeth. [ < F. back formation from plaquier to plate < MD placken to beat (metal) thin and flat. See PLACK, PLACKET]
We put a plaque up on the wall. It was given to us at a banquet. It’s clear with our name etched into the glass. Or the plaque is black enamel, engraved with gold lettering. Someone hand-painted it. Our name was double-checked and, for once, spelled right. Maybe we did something at work. Maybe we volunteered in our community. Maybe we stayed at the same company for twenty years and are acknowledged for our longevity.
But the plaques on our walls are usually not for the things that we should really be recognized for. How about the time when we were really maxed out but we answered the phone to find our friend distraught and listened attentively for hours? There was the time when we were sitting in bumper to bumper traffic and decided to let someone in. We offered to help a friend using a skill we have. We babysat. We offered tissue or a hand or a shoulder to a stranger crying on the bus. We cooked a special meal that honored the dietary restrictions of everyone attending the potluck even though it meant going to a few different stores to get the ingredients. We opened our heart, even though it was scary, even though it had been broken before. We knocked on doors for a cause we believed in and had thoughtful conversations, even with those who disagreed with us. We made something for someone that we just knew they would love. We painted walls and moved furniture and lent power tools to friends to help them create new homes. We gave rides. We pulled out our jumper cables and drove our car next to the one that had the engine that was turning and turning and turning but not over. We baked pies for holidays. We made casseroles for friends who just had babies, for friends who just lost a dear one. We risked smiling even though we didn’t know if the person passing on the sidewalk would smile back. We dropped extra money in the tip jar or donation basket, money we didn’t really have. We did the thing we thought we could not do because someone we loved needed us to do it.
Plaques don’t honor the ordinary. But it is in those ordinary acts that we do for one another every day that hope exists. It is in those ordinary acts that we display the highest achievement we can ever achieve as humans. That is: to be kind.