On the corner “Blessing”

By Bob Docter

As the thunder fired cannons and the torrential rain lashed Southern California this past week, I thanked God not only for blessing us with his nurturance, but also for a good roof. I guess I’m grateful for blessings and practicalities. Then, I became aware of something to work on.

If I analyze the words I use as I pray, I suspect that the most used word would be bless. I seek God’s blessing and care on family and friends, on those I know by name whose journey through life has brought them to frightening days; I pray for the Army and its leaders, for the corps and its soldiers, for peace in a troubled world.

Yet, though I am very present in the many aspects of my world, somehow, I almost never seem to use in any form the word bless in my verbal interaction with others. In verbal conversation the word “blessing” remains unselected. I seem to have delegated to God the responsibility to deliver my unsaid blessing to someone else.

I regret this.

I must have thought it was God’s job alone. I’ve discovered this is not true. If you don’t believe me, look it up in the dictionary. There are multiple meanings of the words bless (v) and blessing (n) available if we choose. To bless someone can offer happiness, peace, joy, protection, hope, comfort, and so on.

This past Christmas my daughter Mary, whom we nicknamed “Marigold,” gave me a little book by an Irish poet named John O’Donohue. It’s titled To Bless the Space Between Us. She had read it. It meant much to her, so she shared it with me. I thought to myself: “Oh, nice—I’ll read this sometime,” and put it aside. I picked it up a week or so into 2012, and it hasn’t been too far from me since. As it identifies and poetically describes a multitude of human issues aided by a human blessing it reverberates through the mind and goes directly to the heart. It has helped me see my responsibility in delivering blessings to others.

O’Donohue writes:

                    “In the parched desert of postmodernity a blessing can be like the discovery

of a fresh well. It would be lovely if we could rediscover our power to bless

one another. I believe each of us can bless. When a blessing is invoked, it

changes the atmosphere. Some of the plenitude flows into our hearts from

the invisible neighborhood of loving kindness.”

He goes on to explain that the spirit of complete connection emerges as one offers a blessing to someone else. “A person or situation becomes illuminated in a completely new way. In a dead wall a new window opens, in a dense darkness a path starts to glimmer, and into a broken heart healing falls like morning dew.”

A friend of mine struggles through a serious illness now in remission. When I speak to him and inquire how “everything is going,” he always answers with a single word: “Blessed.” The same word is used by a long-time friend at the corps who is a recovering alcoholic and sober for many years. These great people, fighting through disease, know what it means to be “blessed.”

I decided to try this out in order to sense my feelings about offering a blessing to someone I had met only a few minutes earlier. The opportunity arrived as a young man approached me. We spoke for some time concerning deep issues. As is my habit, I offered no advice—no shoulds or shouldn’ts. I gave no direction. I merely expressed the empathy I felt for him and my confidence in him. I told him of my willingness to meet with him again—and then, I said: “I want to bless you, to bless the courage within you and the peace it will bring.”

He looked at me differently. His eyes welled up, and he threw his arms around me and hugged me.

That part of each of us that is spirit came together. I felt its warmth within me, and for him, through the “invisible neighborhood of loving kindness,” from the dense darkness, a path began to glimmer.

Mary wrote a note on the flyleaf of the book—some priceless thoughtsand then told me to start on page 42 to understand what she meant. I did so, and on turning there I found this “Blessing for Presence”:

Awaken to the mystery of being here

and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

Have joy and peace in the temple of your own senses.

Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

Respond to the call of your gift and courage to follow its path.

Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.

May anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of your soul.

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.


Bless the Space Between Us, dear reader.


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