If you are like me, you sometimes take for granted that you are fortunate to have a shelter—a home, apartment, or some kind of physical dwelling—a place where you get to live and sleep on a daily basis. I’m not always as appreciative as I should be about the fact that I have always been blessed to have such a shelter in my life. I am aware that I often take for granted another kind of shelter that I live in, and that is the shelter that the love of friends and family provides for me each day. It is this kind of shelter to which the beautiful Irish proverb that appears above is referring: “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.”
There are many ways we can provide the kind of shelter for one another that this proverb describes. As I wrote last week, one way we can provide shelter is to truly listen to one another. We can also offer any or all of the following: compassion, love, patience, forgiveness, acceptance, and gratitude—all of which are forms of shelter.
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day I want to highlight a wonderful Irish tradition, that of offering blessings and well wishes to one another. In this way the Irish, and the rest of us who can learn from them, can provide emotional and spiritual shelter to our friends, neighbors, and families. Even if you are not Irish yourself, you likely are already familiar with these wonderful sentiments offered to others. Google “Irish Blessings” and you will a long list.
One way I know about the shelter a blessing can be for any of us is the many times I have heard stories, from clients and parishioners alike, about the pain they have endured when the blessing from a loved one was withheld. I have heard stories of great sadness when a person shared how a significant person in their life—a parent, grandparent, boss, close friend—did not bless the person they were or an important decision they had made. “It has always been painful for me that I never received my _______’s blessing” is almost always said through tear-filled eyes.
I have also heard stories of how much it has meant to people to receive the blessing of a significant person in their lives. Their eyes sparkle with joy and their faces light up as they share their story of feeling blessed. To be blessed by someone is to experience the shelter of their unconditional love and positive regard.
There are indeed many ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. This year, I invite you to join me in celebrating this holiday by remembering to be a blessing to others and to continuously offer blessings to your friends, families, and neighbors.
I close with a beautiful Irish blessing, one that reminds us of the many kinds of shelter we can, in fact, offer to one another.