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Bless You. No, Really, Bless You!


I am, of course, a devout atheist. So much so that when our daughter had to write a report – in grade school – about “her family’s religion,” I told her to just pick any book or movie that she thought had the right messages to organize your life around. She chose Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and I fell a little more in love with her.

So I guess, according to reports, we are Buellerists.

I was out and about the other day, and witnessed an interaction that saddened me to my core. An older person said to a young child, “God Bless You,” and the child said back, “we don’t believe in god.”

I mean, really? I don’t believe in god either, but when someone says “God Bless You” to me, I say “thank you.” Why? Because I may be an atheist, but I’m not an asshole. And I am tolerant of other people’s beliefs.

When someone says “God Bless You,” what they are saying is “I want you to have good fortune and joy.” That’s it. They are saying it in the language that is most important to them. They are honoring you in the way that means the most to them. They are not saying “be damned, you godless heathen and convert to my one true way.” They are wishing you well.

And when you respond with “We don’t believe in god,” you’re pretty much saying, “fuck off.” Like an asshole.

But more than that, you are being intolerant of their belief system, which is pretty much the opposite of what we need to be doing in this day and age. If ever there was a time to open our hearts and accept peace in all its forms, languages and religions, it’s now. Like, yesterday.

The man who washes our windows at the gym is a tall man with a lumbering stride and a smile that lights up the streets. He wears a gleaming gold cross around his neck and is constantly praising the god he believes so dearly in. The other day, I chased him down because we owed him money for times when he washed our windows even though we weren’t around, because he trusted that we’d pay him when our paths crossed. He’s a man who has faced so many obstacles that would cripple most of us, and he can’t stop smiling.

I ran a few blocks, found him, paid him, and with his giant smile leading the way, we embraced in the warmest of ways, and he said “God Bless You, God Bless You, Really, God Bless You.” And with my beaming atheist grin, I said, “You too, always, thank you so much, may you always be blessed.”

He neither knows nor cares that I am an atheist. All he knows is that he wishes me well in the most powerful way he knows. And that’s all I need to know.

The holidays are tough, we seem to have this weird need to correct everyone and make sure that they know who we are, rather than opening our hearts and celebrating who others are. But that’s not how it works. It’s not about you honoring me. It’s about all of us seeing the gifts around us, in their myriad forms. Perhaps the darkness of this season is lit by the constellations of people around us, dazzling in their  diversity.

On the front desk at our gym is a fabulous menorah that was made for us by some members. When I see it, I am reminded how much I love them, (so much) and that none of us care if we believe in the same god (though I am certain they all love Ferris,) just that we love and care for each other. That our differences are inconsequential compared to the common things we share and believe in. In it, I see them.

I hope they are always blessed.

I hope we are all blessed.

If you wish me well, I will wish you well. If you share your heart with me, I will share mine with you. If you are here to build a community with me, I am here to build it with you.

Happy Holidays is what I have for you. It is me wishing you all the happiness. That you can see all the gifts and all the blessings in all the forms in which they present themselves to you.

It is my wish for you every day of the year.


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