“God Bless You”, Sayeth the Agnostic

Oct 13, 2018   The issue of faith has never occupied much mind share, so I guess that makes me faith-agnostic. There was a period of explorations. I tried to engage our hippie youth minister. He seemed more drawn to other teens, the ones with unruly braided hair, frayed bell-bottoms, and strident views about Viet Nam.  I had a collection stoner friends.  We would debate the issue while checking out girls at the beach. (I was a dedicated beer guy, not a stoner.) It was 1969. This discussion co-mingled with the Mets chasing the Cubs and girls not shaving their legs.

The decades pass and I have rumbled along without many contemplations of faith. I recognize the importance of faith to many and am somewhat envious. I’ve even attended a couple of Catholic masses with Allison. The warmth and togetherness was compelling as were the many Catholic rituals. But for me, the foundational piece was missing. Questions were unanswered and evidence was unconvincing.

And now on my journey, I have arrived in Kearney, Nebraska, the exact center of an imaginary string stretching from Boston to San Francisco. It is the heart of the heartland and Nebraskans take issues of the heart very seriously. If you can ignore the wind, this is the place to hobble the landscape with a disability. There is unimaginable kindness and awareness that cuts across all demographics. In Omaha, a Muslim woman in a hajib put down her infant to pick up my cane.  In Grand Island, a burly farm guy moves his mud-spattered truck. He did the calculus and knew my door wouldn’t open enough. The helping hand is always extended. Doors are opened, rental cars delivered, unruly collars adjusted, coffee and cake magically appear. It is a pervasive thoughtfulness that has attained the status of “a blessing”.

Perhaps I got into this spirit. In thanks to the kindness of a shuttle driver I blurted a “God bless you”. The world didn’t stop spinning but I paused in contemplation. “Did I just say that?” And this renews the conversation of faith. Is it hypercritical or unfair to toss around the blessing without having done all of the Christian work? And if God exists, what would he think? Is there a rulebook guiding these behaviors? Faith apparently comes in many flavors and we get to decide. But ultimately, if we receive the blessing of kindness we should have faith in the goodness of humanity. Oct. 13, 2018


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