I was in the grocery store one evening, about this time last year, when a gentleman in the same aisle sneezed. Without really thinking about it, I responded with “bless you.” The man shot back at me with a very firm and unexpected lecture on the origin of the phrase, the history of the church and his rather strong feelings surrounding both. I was taken aback. Fortunately, I rarely lose the power to actually speak and responded with “I’m very sorry, my intention was simply to be polite, not to comment on your eternal salvation.” He was then rendered speechless himself and I pushed my cart on down the aisle.
I meant no disrespect to this man or his beliefs. I even agreed with him on some of his points about religion. In fact, I may have enjoyed a good debate/discussion. However, the grocery store was not the place for this conversation, and surely, it is not a conversation that’s a good idea to have with a complete stranger. So what should someone do in this situation? I believe we need to consider the intention of the person who is speaking with us. My intention was to wish him good health. He should have simply responded with “thank you” in the same way that I would respond if someone wished me a Happy Hanukah.
I’m not Jewish. I don’t celebrate Hanukah. However, if someone does and greets me with this wish, I would simply respond with “thank you” or “you also.” Their intention was to wish me happiness. It is not a comment or an insult on my own belief system. Now maybe the correct thing would be to first ask the person if they actually celebrate the holiday you are about to wish them well with. If they say no, then just wish them peace or good health instead. However, sometimes it is just impractical to inquire about everyone’s personal beliefs before offering a simple, well-intentioned greeting.
I think in our efforts to be politically correct we have gone way overboard. Isn’t it really all the same season; the season of peace and joy and good will towards our fellow human beings? I celebrate Christmas because I was raised in a Catholic family, but my own beliefs have evolved well beyond the church of my youth. I also like the idea of celebrating the Winter Solstice as well; a time to celebrate the cold, dark days each getting a little longer on our way to spring and new life once again. Its connection to the ancient gods or goddesses is intriguing but not threatening in any way to my particular faith. I love hearing about other faiths and traditions and would enjoy being included in a family’s celebration that was different than my own.
The same goes for my tree. You can call it a holiday tree or a Christmas tree or Auntie Karen’s Super Funky Sparkling Tree of Fun! It’s all fine with me. What you call it or how you celebrate or don’t celebrate does not affect my enjoyment of the holidays in any way whatsoever. I truly hope that nothing I do or say is offensive to you in anyway either. My wish is for each of you to enjoy your entire holiday season, in whatever form that it takes! Should I run into any of you in the grocery store, and I slip up and say “Merry Christmas” or “God Bless You,” please forgive me. I have only the best intentions!
Now I’m off to wrap presents to put under my Super Funky Sparkling Tree of Fun!