A Touch of Encouragement

The night before St. Patrick’s Day my six year-old asked, “do we get presents tomorrow?” I shook my head and said no, it’s not that kind of holiday.
But then I started thinking and I realized that St. Patrick’s Day is something quite unique and worth celebrating as a kind of gift in itself. It’s the only day I can think of where we all adopt a culture as our own for a day. Folks of every color and heritage are wearing green today.

Now, not everyone wears green to honor St. Patrick himself – a remarkable missionary who, by the way, wasn’t even Irish. I imagine that most people wear the green to adopt for a day the indomitable spirit of Irish joy and optimism that has survived even the bleakest of times.
Speaking of bleak times, I awoke this morning and received the news of yet another downturn on Wall Street. I read of the dire predictions for a bear market and possible recession and was suddenly tempted to fall into that place we can all go to where all the terrible “what ifs” clutch at our hearts and paralyze us with fear of what might happen next.
At times when I’m tempted to despair, I often ask myself “what would my mother say now?” My mother was Irish. My grandmother was Irish. I can still close my eyes and hear my grandmother sitting in a rocking chair in a Colorado cabin singing “Tura, Lura, Lura, (That’s An Irish Lullaby)” in a deep and comforting contralto voice. I can still hear my mother crooning “Danny Boy” with her soaring soprano, bringing an audience to its feet at her last, crystal notes “and I shall rest in peace until you come to me!”
Both those ladies rest in peace today, I’m sure. And though I can’t experience the joy of their Irish music, I still experience the comfort of their Irish faith that “this, too, shall pass.”
Yes, the Irish are known for all sorts of things: a love of music, a great and generous humor, a love of a pint or two – or three, a rich, sentimental spirit and a gentle sort of melancholy. But today as I put on my green shirt and my four-leaf clover pin, I am encouraged by something ancient and deeper – the Irish talent for survival against the odds and for holding firmly that the road may indeed rise up to meet you, that the wind will be at your back, that the rain will fall softly and that, most of all, no matter what happens, God will indeed hold us all in the hollow of His hand.
And, as I told our children this morning, just being reminded of that is the true gift of this St. Patrick’s Day.

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