Driving home the other day we listened to an interview on the radio with a woman who was being asked about Saint Patrick's Day. The interviewer wanted to know how it has become such a world wide celebration. The woman was stymied by the question. In the end she said that she had no idea, but that she, herself, was taken aback by how many people from so many different countries and cultures wear green on Saint Patrick's day and who good the shamrock looks painted against every possible skin tone. The interviewer then moved to the inevitable talk of parties and green beer. At that point we turned off the radio. Not because we weren't interested but because Ted, our GPS, was beginning to give us lots of instructions. We're at the age where we can cope with only one source of sound at a time.
When Ted fell silent again, Joe and I talked about the interview. We both felt that the reason why Saint Patrick's Day is so widely and so wonderfully celebrated is because it is, perhaps, the only intentionally inclusive holiday there is. It simply has no boundaries. We've all heard the expression, "Everyone is Irish on Saint Patrick's Day." In fact if you Google those words you will get an astonishing 57,000,000 results. The whole thing has become about inclusion and welcome. It is a holiday where 'all finally means all.' It gives me hope to see that humanity can embrace humanity, it gives me cheer to see the colour green, one day a year, symbolise the human community.
I've written before about Saint Patrick's Day and our experiences at the parade. It's become such a tradition at Vita that I begin to be asked questions about the parade in early January. One fellow, for weeks, asks me every time he sees me, "Are we going to be in the parade again this year?" And every time he asks I assure him that we are definitely going to be there. He grins in anticipation. Another member, a woman who I see regularly, doesn't ask me about the parade she just says, "I'm marching in the parade again this year." It's become their event, their celebration, part of their personal stories. We march and we hand out cards with information about the "R-word" letting people know how much words hurt. We have two messages, one we hand out on cards and one that comes from just being there. No more shame, no more shadows, no more silence - we're home for good.
Again this year in working with the Saint Patrick's Day Committee has been so easy and so simple. They do so much work, yet they never seem to be rushed, never seem to be overwhelmed by questions, they are astonishing both for what they do but also for how they do it. Never once have I ever felt anything but their incredible warmth and their amazing welcome.
Warmth and welcome.
Perhaps that's why, one day a year, we all celebrate a world that could be.