We are at that time of year when almost everyone seems to be celebrating something. And I have to say “something” because when we step away from the singular celebration of any particular faith or belief system we find that there are more than 60 holidays or faith-based celebrations during the month of December. Given that knowledge, it seems more than a little egotistical, and horribly presumptive, to simply go around wishing anyone the blessings of a particular holiday. When you meet a person on the street or in the store who is not a personal friend, you don’t know what they believe and it is horribly, terribly wrong to assume they believe the same as you on any level.
Look, I know there are those who fear an alleged war on Xmas. First, let’s be very clear that there is no such thing. If anything, those within the most conservative areas of Christianity are guilty of posing a war on every other December holiday, and that’s something they’ve been doing since the third century when Constantine started moving holidays around so that they would all fall on the same day. If you know that someone celebrates a specific holiday, then sure, go ahead and wish them a happy or joyous occasion. But if you don’t know, and feel that you must say something, an inclusive “happy holidays” is pretty much the only appropriate greeting.
Or perhaps you simply leave it at, “have a pleasant day,” and not invoke a holiday at all. For all the celebrations around the world, there are plenty of people who don’t celebrate anything at all. They don’t have a reason to do so. They don’t claim adherence to any organized belief system outside themselves, they don’t feel compelled to exchange gifts, prepare large meals, or gather with people they don’t really like.
Still, you never know who is celebrating Hannukah (which starts tonight), Bodhi Day, Las Posadas, the Winter Solstice, Kisan Diwas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, Holy Innocents Day, or even Taylor Swift’s birthday. I wish I was kidding. There are dozens of cultural and religious observations particular to specific cultures and regions and as people have migrated heavily over the past few years it’s impossible to know who celebrates what.
What is consistent, regardless of what one believes, is that December finds almost everyone under some special kind of pressure, feeling their efforts are less than appreciated, that end-of-year deadlines are going to be missed, or, like me, the uncertainty of changes that take effect at the turning of a new year. So, for all those people, for everyone who feels rushed, or pushed, or stressed, or depressed, and all the other emotions common to this season, please allow me the privilege of slipping into my vestments as a properly ordained minister of the Church of the Latter-Day Dude and offer for everyone a series of blessings for this holiday season. Take them if you wish. Ignore them if you’d rather. Please know that we offer them in a spirit of caring and compassion for everyone.
Blessed are the poor, whose numbers have grown despite their $15/hr wages and an improved economy. Inflation has rendered your gains meaningless and left many of you struggling harder now than you were a year ago. May you find wisdom in keeping all the pieces together and peace as you file for another deferment to your student loan.
Blessed are the stressed, who thought vaccines would bring some relief and allow the world to return to some form of normalcy. Not only have you dealt with variants complicating our plans for recovery, but you’ve also navigated your way through the hordes of unvaccinated and uncaring family members and coworkers who think what they read on the Internet makes them more informed than the legions of epidemiologists and scientists.
Blessed are the depressed, who have fought through the deep valleys of hopelessness and increases in the cost of medication only to have to face members of your own family who willingly put your life in danger by refusing to wear masks or keep their distance. Having to avoid this emotional toxicity has worn you down. May you find a tribe and a place that’s safe.
Blessed are the anxious, who desperately needed a break from the nonstop pace of danger and worry only to discover that there is no slowing, no relief, and a drought of understanding. You have slogged your way through the year, fighting day to day, hour by hour, trying to hold yourself together and not lash out in a full rage. May you find a safe, quiet space without any triggers.
Blessed are those in uniform, not just military dress, but that of the service industry, from UPS and FedEx drivers to the two fast-food workers left to operate the entire store on their own, from postal service employees whose routes are longer to first responders trying to protect people from the police. May each of you be given the respect you deserve, the strength to persevere, and the hope that something better awaits in the new year.
Blessed are the lonely and alone, whatever your circumstance, whatever your age. You got your shot, you tried to participate, only to find a society more divided and determined to be cruel, giving you ample reason to stay home, safe, sequestered, and wondering if you’ll ever not be alone. May you find friendship where you least expect it and peace in those endlessly quiet moments when the only sound is your own breathing.
Blessed are those overtaken by illness, who played by the rules, did everything right, and still found themselves with a breakthrough case of the virus, or a resurgence of their cancer, or the emergence of a new threat on their life. You’ve survived the symptoms, fought through the chemo and radiation, endured all the blood tests, and pushed through the physical therapy. May you now find healing, the regeneration of healthy cells, and a supportive community to help you continue forward.
Blessed are those who have lost: a partner, a parent, a child. There’s an empty space at the family table, one less gift to buy, one less hug to give. Even if this is not the first holiday without them, the sense of loss is still real, sometimes in-your-face real, and so is the pain that goes along with it. May you find comfort in the love of those around you and peace in the hope that they no longer feel pain, or fear, or dread.
Blessed are those who sit there listening or reading, right now, not entirely convinced that they’ll survive to the end of the year. I’m not going to guess how you’re feeling because I can’t know. I do know that there are many, millions, who feel that there’s no going forward, that the road for them ends here. May you find the strength to call: 800-273-8255. If you’re in Indiana, you can Text IN to 741741. Someone will talk to you and do their best to help.
Blessings For Families
Blessed are the families, small and large, close or estranged, together or scattered, for into families we are born, we help create them, and they participate in who we become, both our good traits and our not-so-good characteristics. Families are often the source of our greatest joys, and yet also responsible for our most severe traumas. And now, as we face this season, may we all find grace in knowing how to respond to our families, showing love in ways that are sincere, respecting boundaries that are necessary, and staying away to safeguard ourselves.
Blessed are the parents, who dared to bring children into this world and struggle to raise them in a way that doesn’t result in a lifetime of therapy bills for everyone. From the earliest moments of elation to the all-too-frequent experiences of frustration and disappointment, parenting is a role we may or may not choose but upon which society relies on us getting correct, despite a lack of training. May you find rest for your weary feet, respite for your empty wallet, and a strong drink for your perpetually frayed nerves.
Blessed are the mothers, who, from the moment a child was conceived, bear the greatest weight any human ever carries. You are the giver of life and despite the many times you’ve called into question the decision to procreate, you still find ways to nurture, to encourage, and support your offspring, no matter what turns their lives may take, what differences they pose, or what challenges they present. May you be filled with the assurance that you’ve done your best and your efforts are appreciated even if the words are not there.
Blessed are the fathers, both the good and the bad, those who struggled to not repeat the mistakes they endured, and those who found the task overwhelming. You have not always known when to lead and when to lend support, when to advise and when to listen, and for many, you’ve struggled with simply being present. Society gives you privilege you may not deserve and too many squander on frivolity. May your hearts always be filled with compassion for your children, their mothers, their lovers, and their friends.
Blessed are the children, the offspring of a moment, the delight of an instant, and the deliverers of constant and perpetual change. The world is yours to conquer, preserve, and hold precious. You had no say as to the environment you inherit but you have absolute power in determining what it will become. You are the creators of the future and whether that is sustainable is a matter wholly in your hands. May you grow in wisdom, compassion, and love for things seen and unseen, known and mysterious.
Blessed are the grandparents, who survived the raising of their own children to receive the glorious reward of grandbabies (or so I’ve been told). To you is given carte blanche to coddle, to spoil, to treat, and to give endlessly all the love you were afraid to give your own children. You are a powerful force for good, an occasional voice of reason, and a hopeful ally against the monsters under the bed. May you speak only kindness, may your pockets never be without hard candy, and may judgment be something you leave to others.
Blessed are the uncles and aunties, the purveyors of good times, frequent gifts, and sometimes family drama. You have been given the responsibility to set an example for what’s cool, what’s fun, and the secrets children never hear from their parents. You are expected to always be supportive, never abusive, and a refuge when your siblings are being unreasonable with their children. May you always bring smiles to wipe away tears, hugs and spontaneity, and an eclectic strangeness that is warm and endearing.
Blessed are the families without children, whether by intent or nature’s design. You have endured insensitive comments, suffered through endless testing, and answered sometimes hurtful questions from friends and family who didn’t want to understand. Rest assured that you are still family, that your worth is not the least diminished, and that the opportunities available to you are envied by others. May you be secure in who you are, full of empathy and compassion for others, and may you know a happiness that others cannot imagine.
Blessed are the teachers, those under-recognized, under-appreciated, and under-compensated guardians of knowledge. You are the world’s bastion against ignorance, charged with teaching the offspring of those who didn’t want to pay attention when they were in school, constantly bombarded with criticism by those who don’t have a clue about any form of pedagogy, persistently trying to teach the Truth that too many parents don’t want their children to hear. May you reach young minds in amazing ways, may thanks come in many forms, and may the minds you do manage to reach change the world.
Blessed are the medical professionals, the doctors, and the nurses, and the veterinarians, who thought last year was bad enough and have now had to deal with a second straight year where emergency rooms are full of those who refuse to listen, where bullet wounds are an ordinary occurrence, and people challenge your years of experience with garbage they read on the Internet. May you find the strength to carry on, may your compassion and empathy be rewarded, and may you find rest for your heavy hearts.
Blessed are the social workers, both public and private, who have given their lives in attempting to help those who cannot help themselves, to counsel those who don’t know where to go, to secure services for those who need them, to protect those who live in danger, to be a voice for the voiceless, and advocate for the least of these. You have found your caseloads overflowing, your schedules too full, your funding cut, your offices in need of repair, and lost resources just as you needed them most. May you be encouraged by every small success, resting in the knowledge that you are doing good work even when you rarely see the outcome.
Blessed are the retail workers, the ones who made the decision to stay when others left, you who endure long hours, insane schedules, challenging working conditions, rude customers, and power-hungry managers. You get blamed for everything from lack of stock to increased prices and are still expected to smile, respond politely, and ignore the insults hurled at you daily. May you find the patience to not shove that set of kitchen knives up anyone’s ass and find joy in knowing that there are millions of children whose eyes shine bright because of the gift you helped their parents secure.
Blessed are the seasonal employees, the calvary of the holidays, who step into jobs for which they’ve not been properly trained, expected to come up to speed in a single day, have full knowledge of inventories and menus and warehouse layouts, and manage to pull a holiday miracle out of your back pocket at the last minute. You are paid less, have no security, and cling desperately to the hope that someone will still want you come January 1. May you be given the recognition you deserve, may your managers be merciful, and may your own holiday celebrations be rich with love.
Blessed are those who labor in the hospitality industries from restaurant servers to flight attendants who have seen many of their colleagues abandon ship in search of greener pastures. At one moment you have been called a hero, serving on the front-line of the pandemic, only to be called greedy and disrespected when you ask to be treated as a human. May you persevere with grace under a pressure that would demolish most of those you serve and may the padding in your shoes find an extra life as your body screams for relief.
Blessed are the blue-collar workers, the laborers, the factory line employees, the truck drivers, the dock workers, and all the others who have been beset by layoffs, delays, work slowdowns, and supply chain interruptions that make it impossible to do your job well. You are expected to not have an issue with staying home for six weeks and come back when called without any fuss. May you find your year-end bonuses increased, your families be full of appreciation for your effort, and your union representative a bit more forceful in the year to come.
Blessed are the self-employed, the ones who struck out on your own in pursuit of happiness, a better idea, a different way of doing things without the pressure of having to play by corporate rules. You have seen contracts canceled, clients close for good, and been stiffed on invoices that will never be paid. May you find new life and new energy as the new year approaches and may those who hire you see the brilliance in what you offer.
Blessed are the unemployed and unemployable, those whose resumes don’t match the keywords on faulty AI-powered websites that discard your name before a hiring manager ever has a chance to consider you, those who have gone to every hiring fair only to come home empty-handed. You have bristled to the sound of politicians and their supporters calling you lazy and undeserving while you make one sacrifice after another just to make sure that your family still has shoes on their feet and a roof of some kind over their head. May you find that for which you seek, may your fortunes turn positive, and may you and your families flourish.
Blessings for the Ignored and Unseen
Blessed are the handicapped and differently-abled, those of you who struggle to do what others consider normal, and those who simply can’t. Too many hours you sit alone in a room, expected to occupy yourself with menial games that never were interesting or helpful, too often unable to express your needs, frequently misunderstood, and often mistreated without any way to complain. May you be shown grace and mercy, compassion and understanding, with care and companionship.
Blessed and the hungry and food-insecure whose numbers have grown exponentially over the past two years. You have watched as stores closed, food prices increased, and the lines at food pantries tripled in length while the choices on shelves dwindled. You have used a single pack of Ramen to feed a family of four, stretched a pound of beans to cover a week’s worth of meals and get excited over a single piece of bread. May you be blessed with food and the means to secure it for yourself and your family indefinitely. May you find your way out of the food desert and into healthy abundance.
Blessed are the homeless, caught up in a wave of unemployment as jobs disappeared and landlords and cities showed little patience or compassion. You have shivered under bridges, huddled inside cars, warmed yourself in coffee shops, and been driven away from one safe space after another, unwanted and treated like trash over conditions in which you have little to no control. May you find shelter that is safe, and warm, and permanent, full of love and hope for a better future.
Blessed are the uninsured, those who’ve fallen between the cracks of bureaucracy and technology, making too much money to qualify for assistance but not enough to pay the premiums on low-cost, next-to-nothing insurance. No one wants to hear your plight. No one believes your struggle. You not only fear the virus but the chance that the slightest injury or infection could bankrupt your family. May you find help that is understanding, a swift resolution to your needs, and the medical care that is necessary.
Blessed are the immunocompromised, those who know their bodies are unable to fight any disease, not just the coronavirus but any infection of any kind from any source. You were wearing a mask before they were mandated and will continue to wear one long after everyone else throws them in the trash. You fear being around unvaccinated people because they fail to realize the danger they present to your life. May you be kept safe, may others build a hedge of protection around you, minimizing your need to be in public and filling you with compassion and love.
Blessed are the gay and lesbian, trans, bi, and queer individuals and everyone who identifies differently. You are treated too often as an outsider, ridiculed at your place of employment, disowned by those who gave you life, and are the constant target of hate and misunderstanding. There are more of you than any study admits, though. You are not alone. May you find the community that meets your needs, shows you love and helps you become strong.
Blessed are those who endure hate because of the color of their skin. In the aftermath of what felt like an awakening, the waves of hate have become stronger and more vocal. You keep your thumb on the video button of your phone at all times. You avoid places where you know hate exists and you shudder with fear when approached by someone in authority. You have seen too much to not be afraid. May you find peace. May you find equity. May you find justice.
Blessed are those mistreated because of their heritage, who are ridiculed even at the highest levels of government by those who are supposed to represent us all. You are denied housing, home loans, credit, jobs, and your actions, even at professional levels, are scrutinized more than anyone else’s. People ask where you’re from and no one is satisfied when you answer, “56th and Delaware.” May you find compassion and a community that trusts you, that welcomes you, and values your contributions.
Blessed are those scorned because of their beliefs, the Zoroastrians, the Wiccans, the pagans, the naturists, and others who few know and few understand. Your holidays are ignored, you’re told your beliefs aren’t real and don’t matter. You’re expected to still observe mainstream celebrations even when they violate your beliefs. May you find the courage to stand up for what you believe, to stand apart bravely, and to separate yourself from the toxicity of normalcy.
Blessed are those who wander and stray from the trodden path, who explore on their own, who find different ways to do the same things, who look under the covers, behind the curtains, and around the corners. You are the soul of discovery, the power that propels the universe forward and into new spaces, new remedies, and new ways of being. May you forever be blessed with a curious drive for that which is better.
Blessed are those who are creators, whose imaginations team with different ideas looking for ways of expression. You are the writers, the artists, the composers, the singers, the dancers, the comedians, the actors, the producers, the cinematographers, the designers, the photographers, the illusionists, and the architects. You not only keep us entertained, but you inspire and influence us all. May you be blessed with the resources to carry on and to refine your craft in all the ways you’ve dreamed.
Blessed are the protestors, those who refuse to accept the status quo, who know the world can be better and are willing to stand up even in the face of ridicule and danger in order to bring attention to the injustices ignored by those in power. You are the agents of change now. And despite the ridicule thrown in your direction, the progress we’ve made is because you took to the streets and didn’t back down. May your voice forever be unwavering, may your chants echo in the minds of every leader, and may your feet never grow weary.
Blessed are the peacemakers, those who put themselves at the front of conflicts determined to find a resolution. You carefully balance patience with urgency, you negotiate with authority, and are clear as to what is and is not acceptable. The peace and safety of millions rest on the outcome of your efforts, though your name is most often unknown by the masses for it is the politicians that take the credit. May your words dive deep into the hearts of those in conflict and may the peace you bring be everlasting.
Blessed are those who dare to correct myths of history, to right the injustices of the past, and shed light on the shadows that some would prefer not to be seen. You have been called names. The ignorant and racists rise up against you. Whole movements are formed to stop you. Yet, you still march on, proclaiming truth with a loud voice to whoever has the ears to hear. May your voice grow in volume, may your cause grow in number, and may the hearts of the next generation not repeat the sins of their forebearers.
Blessed are those who raise the bar, who challenge others to do better by doing better themselves, who raise expectations by delivering a higher level. You are the ones who care about results, who care about the people who benefit from your work, who want the world to be a better place, and know that only happens if everyone contributes their best. May you see the successful fruits of your labor and may others be inspired to follow in your footsteps.
Blessed are those who understand how to be content, who take the blessings they’ve been given without feeling the need to profit even more, or horde riches beyond their need, or deny wealth to others. You are the anti-billionaire, the quiet warrior against greed, the soft-spoken wisdom of one who understands that enough isn’t having more than everyone else. May you be filled with joy, spreading happiness to those you meet, and full of the spirit of cheer.
Where Blessings End
This brings us to the end of this year’s blessings. I have done my best to include as many people as I could given the constraints of time and patience. Yes, there are some intentionally not on the list. I cannot in good conscience extend blessings to those who are willfully ignorant, who embrace hate, who do harm to others, or demand that someone stay in a place that is toxic for them. Neither do I feel any need to curse anyone, though, because your hate and your ignorance is sufficient punishment as it eats at your soul and devours your being.
There are but a handful of days left in this year, not nearly enough to right the wrongs that have been committed, nor to dry all the tears or take away all the hurt. Neither is there any promise that next year will be any better. Life doesn’t come at us with many promises and the few it does make don’t guarantee any level of pleasure.
So, I end with one final blessing for you, my dear friend: May the road you travel have more joy than sorrow, more sunshine than rain, happiness in all your encounters with hate a far distance from everywhere you go. And when you bowl, and you roll that ball down that lane of polished wood, may the results always be a strike.
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