Twenty years ago I worked as Director of a childcare center for low-income working families. As the day started, and we would greet each other, we would usually call out, “Hey, how are you?” One member of the staff, the assistant cook, would always smile and answer, “Just blessed, and you?”
It took some getting used to.
Eventually, as time passed, I barely noticed. I did stop to wonder sometimes if she really felt that way or if she were answering by rote. Not that it was my business, I just wondered.
Last night I got to have supper with a great friend and writer, Ashley of Baddest Mother Ever. Somehow in the midst of laughing about video games we could so market and sell and sharing our experiences with grief, we got on the subject of blessed and lucky.
I’ve thought a lot about it, as today was not the first time. So, just to clarify, I looked up the definition of blessed:
adjective 1. consecrated; sacred; holy; sanctified: the Blessed Sacrament.
2. worthy of adoration, reverence, or worship: the Blessed Trinity.
3. divinely or supremely favored; fortunate: to be blessed with a strong, healthy body; blessed with an ability to find friends.
4. blissfully happy or contented.
5. Roman Catholic Church , beatified
I am most definitely NOT blessed.
Okay, with the exception of definition number 4 from time to time.
Then I looked up the definition of lucky:
adjective \ˈlə-kē\ luck·i·er luck·i·est
1: having good luck
2: happening by chance : fortuitous
3: producing or resulting in good by chance : favorable
4: seeming to bring good luck <a lucky rabbit’s foot>
Here’s where I have a problem.
If I can say on a day that I don’t get a flat tire, someone pays for my coffee in the drive-thru, and my children actually obey the first time they are asked to do something…..if I can say I am blessed on a day such as this, what do I say on a day when my cat is sick, the freezer breaks down, and I am almost out of gas in my vehicle? Am I cursed? If so, then who’s doing the blessing and who’s doing the cursing? As blessed as green lights, my favorite song on the radio, or a great find at the GW Boutique can make me feel, I just don’t think God is into all of that.
I started thinking a lot more about this when we began going to the Sunday night suppers for folks in need at the park. How was I not in their shoes? My oldest daughter and I, years ago, were in a bad situation. We had family to go to, but was that because we were lucky? Or blessed? Many of my friends would say “blessed.” And I can respect that. I hope they can respect that I say we were lucky. Because for me, blessed would imply “worthiness, holiness, or being supremely favored.” And if that were the case, why us? Why not the woman with the thirteen year old daughter who comes each week to the shelter and barely speaks as her daughter gets them each a hot chocolate? Do I tell them I’m blessed, or do I just consider myself pretty darn lucky?
Here’s how I see it–blessed is a passive word. It implies that I am being blessed by someone. I can use it in that sense just fine. My cousin blessed me by giving me Granny’s car when my old one broke down and I was in a bind. My friend blessed me with her laughter and words of wisdom when my spirits were down. I am a-okay with that usage. What gets me is when people used Blessed with a capital b. Blessed by God. Because then that becomes us-them. I am blessed, and “he/she/they” are not. That means that the all-loving God that I believe in has chosen to bless me and…..not the mother whose teenage daughter is pregnant, putting an end to the dreams of a different life for her child……not the man who sat night after night in the park, fighting his yearning for alcohol, asking God to take the taste away from him……and definitely not the foster child whose 18th birthday is coming, and she has nowhere to go but the streets. Why are their lives so different than mine?
I’m lucky. And that’s where it stops. I can’t go there. That I have been chosen and someone else has not. It just doesn’t geehaw with me. I am. Not. Worthy.
I have a child with a health issue that affects what we get to do, where we can go. It’s a hassle. Is it something that she or I feel cursed by? No. And neither do I feel that my other two children are blessed because they don’t have the same issue. If I had to tell my baby girl, sorry, they are blessed, you are not, I can only imagine that the first words out of her mouth would be–why? What did I do? I’m sorry, but that kind of theology can mess a person up.
And that’s the thing. I think we are here to bless each other. Hugh Hollowell, founder and director of Love Wins ministry, writes about prayer in his post here. This gave me something to think on back in 2011 when Daddy’s lymphoma was winning and my faith grew shaky and shakier. At the end, Mr. Hollowell shares his belief that while people wait on God to answer their prayers, God is waiting on us. He writes: “We are the means by which God brings heaven to earth.”
Today I visited with a sweet older couple in a small town south of here. I played with their daughter when I visited family there when I was little. She died tragically when we were teenagers. I hugged their necks and cherished their smiles and was thankful that I could be with them, if only for a few moments. Y’all, it broke my heart. I am here, and she is not. I really don’t know how to understand the brokenness in this life.
I do not think that I am Blessed by God as I go on this journey. I know that I am very lucky, and I have been blessed by friends and family along the way. And I am LOVED by God just like every other human being on this planet. I think we are put here to love each other and to help wherever we can…..if we are able to do that, we are lucky…..and that is where the blessing comes in.