Whenever I see wet cement on the sidewalk, I am seized by the desire to go stick my thumb in it.
And when it dries, there will be a permanent record of my being here. I’ve been immortalized in concrete. And every stiletto, flip-flop, high-top that walks over it will know, if only by my thumb print, that I have lived.
Maybe it’s why we write our initials on bathroom stalls or make time capsules or send messages in bottles. They’re like little hash marks on the timeline of human history. Look!, they call out, of the great billions of people who walked this planet, I was one of them.
But the thing I always think as I walk over to the wet cement is bathroom stalls get painted over, time capsules go unfound, bottles sink, sidewalks get replaced. Even cement isn’t cemented forever.
So, how then to make some enduring mark on this world?
And the answer I’ve come to is common and unglamorous: We become immortal through the ordinary, everyday things we say and do.
People won’t remember thumbprints on a sidewalk. They will remember how we greeted them in the mornings, listened to them over lunch, made way for them in traffic, walked with them, held them, saw them. As has been said, they will remember how they felt with us.
And if it felt good, they may greet, listen, hold someone else as we did them. So not our thumbprints or our initials, but some deeper, holier part of us has made an enduring mark on this world.
So, I walk away from the wet cement without sticking my thumb in it. Because today, I remind myself, you have a chance to touch human history with the ordinary things you say and do.