Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The luck of the Irish...

May your troubles be less and your blessings be more.
And nothing but happiness come through your door.
May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings,
Slow to make enemies, and quick to make friends.
And, may the Lord welcome you in Heaven,
at least an hour before the Devil knows you're dead.
-- Irish Toast

I have to admit...a part of me has always wanted to be Irish. The magic St. Patrick's Day began in school for me. Unlike other holidays, this was a day that meant pure fun. It didn't mean feeling left out, if I didn't get a Valentine. It never was homogenized to the point of saying "Happy Winter Holiday", in the place of Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah. There was no enormous feast to prepare for visiting relatives. There aren't any traditions that have to be followed to the letter, at the rink of offending those around you. Nothing is expected, other than the pure joy and fun of celebration. I remember picking out something green so that I wouldn't get pinched, and looking forward to a simple dinner of corned beef and cabbage. Despite my blended heritage, there isn't a drop of Irish blood in my ancestry. And yet, I've felt a personal connection with Eire since I first cut out a shamrock from construction paper in Kindergarten.The allure of leprechauns, castles, sprites, pixies, pookas and rainbows with pots of gold at the end is powerful. I'd look at my brown hair and eyes in the mirror and feel utterly bereft...all I wanted was red hair, green eyes and freckles.

Now that I'm older there are other reasons why I still feel blessed by St. Patrick's Day. The tenacious history of the Irish people is one I respect. They have withstood invasion and occupation for hundreds of years, and still have a strong cultural identity. Their rich history is made up of powerful metaphorical stories that are told cross-culturally. Their language, their traditions and their respect for their ancient times is noteworthy. Despite famine, wars (both civil and international), prejudice and, eventually, a divided country, national pride remains high. Unlike most Americans of other European ancestry, Irish Americans remain firmly rooted in the land of their forefathers. The rest of simply have left the "old country" remain lost to us. There is a connectedness between Ireland and the many countries the Irish have emigrated to that simply doesn't exist in most other cultures.

Yet what brings people, like myself, together with their Irish friends on St. Patrick's Day isn't the history, the fairy tales or the geography; it's the overwhelming friendliness of the Irish spirit. I have been befriended by the Irish, both American and those of the Emerald Isle, in a way that has warmed my heart. When other cultures can be insular against 'outsiders', the Irish friendliness is legendary. I have felt more embraced, more welcomed and more blessed by my Irish friends than I ever dreamed possible. Regardless of how we met, or how long we knew each other well, my Irish friends are all sociable, affectionate and neighborly. During times I've felt blue, or lost in the shuffle, it's been my Irish friends who have been not only considerate, but overwhelmingly sympathetic. Their zest for life, their affability and their congeniality has delighted me. It isn't any wonder that, in addition to my adoration for their magical stories, the kindness of the Irish themselves, has worked its way into my heart. I feel incredibly blessed to be accepted by this spirit of goodwill.

Wouldn't it be a different world if we all embraced one another as we would on St. Patrick's Day? Can't you imagine the good cheer, the friendliness and the sense of camaraderie all year 'round? To be welcomed as a sister, or brother, the moment we walk through a door, into a room of strangers is a powerfully dynamic experience. Once someone has felt that expressive acceptance, it is never forgotten.

So...on March 17, I encourage you to pull out your green sweater, to channel your inner leprechaun and to dance a jig to Irish folk music. I will reinforce any desire to march in a parade, to sing songs in Gaelic or to make merriment in your local pub. I invite you to go chasing rainbows or to listen closely to the hear the fairies whispering at dusk. But, most of all, I encourage each of you to bring forward the beautiful spirit of Irish friendliness...and to extend it to a new person in your life. Your heart will warm forever, with a little piece of Irish magic, in doing so.