Tools of Morale: The Hero Plate

A twenty one gun salute to you Captain and welcome aboard the Fighting Ship Phifer!

Tradition and ceremony have a role in nearly every aspect of daily life. One of the many underrated parts of being Captain is the ability to shape the particular traditions and ceremonies that will serve as bonds helping to forge your family’s connection.

Some happen more by repetition than design and can spring forth quite by accident. Lost in thought and pulling into the driveway, I heard a crewman remark from the second row “Home again, home again”. I didn’t realize I’d been saying it often enough for the journey to not quite feel complete without the phrase, yet here was an enterprising hand giving voice to the ceremony of coming into our home port.

Other ceremonies come about with more fore thought. I had heard a story, told by one who was relating cherished memories of childhood, that when an outstanding performance or special recognition warranted, their family would grant a blue dinner plate to distinguish the person of honor and mark the occasion.

What struck me about this ceremony, simple as it was, lay in its deep resonance within the storyteller to reverberate over the waves this detail from long ago. What a feeling of satisfaction this simple blue plate must have conveyed for it to be the first response when giving voice to cherished memories!

Till that point, my family had largely marked such occasions with a trip for ice cream or maybe even a dinner out. Of course not only were these attempts sometimes at odds with financial or scheduling realities, they lacked the consistency to make the individual feel fairly noticed and a part of the whole. If crewman “A” receives a different reward than did crewman “B” for identical conduct, the crew as a whole is hardly better for it and may very well be worse.

Upon reflection, I endeavored to utilize a “blue plate” type device at the nearest opportunity. Weeks passed and while the thought would occur regularly I never brought it into action. What plate would I use? Who should receive the inaugural distinction? What criteria should be used to determine who gets to use it?

All the typical inertia of a distracted dad threatened the endeavor until one day when My Lovely, the Queen of My Sea and Song that Lifts my Sails, was occupied one Friday evening leaving me sole charge of the crew. Not wanting to let an opportunity for adventure pass us by, I loaded the crew and off we sailed with no set direction or agenda. After only about twenty minutes of revelry at the local playground I exercised the crews discipline by demanding an immediate departure. Disappointment was thick but their discipline won the day and in mere seconds we were flying ore the concrete waves to Piggy Pigs Pottery, open only for thirty minutes more.

A five minute drive and disembarkation saw us through their door with only 25 minutes to complete our mission. It took another five minutes to wash our hands, convince the proprietor that we were capable of completing our task in the allotted time, find a suitable plate to serve our purposes, and finally pick the paints that we would use. For simplicity’s sake, I only allowed one color to be chosen by each and soon we were under way.

I remember a strange tranquility settling upon me as I watched those three bright souls bring to life a work of art. My normal commands regulating sharing, forestalling inevitable messes, and even encouragement died away in my chest, so overcome was I with this moment of creation. In little time they had the plate in fine fashion and after I put on the finishing touches we were washed and had our station cleared and cleaned; a full five minutes to spare.

The plate now rests on a shelf overlooking our dinner table, ready to be employed at a moments notice should any member of our family be inclined to nominate another for special distinction as “Hero of The Day”.

One unexpected development in its use has been its ability to cheer up a hand that is in need of a moral boost. Here aboard the Fighting Ship Phifer, we have found that many times the “Hero of the Day” has been the one who has faced the most and yet not given up.

until next time, may these words bring value to your voyage and the fates forever guide your course,

Captain A.D.P. of the Fighting Ship Phifer