My friend Dee tells me that we give blessings when one is about to cross a threshold. There are as many blessings as there are occasions to receive them. During my last trip to Ireland, Dee gave me a book she thought I would enjoy – Benedictus: A Book of Blessings by John O’Donohue. She was right, as I read through the book, I began to think of friends and family who merited a particular blessing. There are so many – for an addict, for the interim time, for one who has lost a child, for the parents of one who has committed a crime, for the new year…. the list goes on. I began to copy particular blessings into my computer and send them off to loved ones.
I am on vacation for Christmas at a lovely quiet hotel in the north of Haiti. On my first night here, I was enjoying a quiet dinner while the staff at the hotel were busy setting up what looked to be table places for 50 or so people. I asked one of them what was going on, and they told me the President of Haiti, Michel Martelly, was coming for dinner. I became really excited. I have never seen any President of Haiti, much less one who is in office. Around 9pm, the President came with at least 25 armed body guards. He, his family, Wyclef Jean and some of his advisors had a leisurely dinner – as I watched from 30 feet away.
I awoke early the next morning, hoping to see him again. I waited at a table in the restaurant. I had all of my reflection books, including Benedictus: A Book Of Blessings. As I thumbed through the book, I came across “A Blessing For One Who Holds Power”. After reading it, I decided to copy it in my very best penmanship and if the opportunity arose, give it to the President, or at least one of his advisors. For those of you who know my handwriting, you know that even my best efforts are barely legible. I still copied it by hand onto a nice piece of stationary.
Haiti is crossing a threshold. It is between a country which has suffered and despaired for too long, and a country with a hope filled future. The President, too, is crossing a threshold as he transitions from his life as a rock star / musician to the President of Haiti.
While waiting for the President to come out, I began chatting with some of his advisors, who were eating breakfast. I let them know I wanted to give the President a note. When the President finally came out, one of his advisors directed him to me. There must have been a crowd of 20 around him at this time. I had the blessing in hand, and told him I wanted to give it to him. He asked me to read it instead. Completely surprised, I began reading it, hands trembling, as the President looked down at me.
A Blessing For One Who Holds Power
May the gift of leadership awaken in you as a vocation,
Keep you mindful of the providence that calls you to serve.
As high over the mountains the eagle spreads its wings,
May your perspective be larger than from the foothills.
When the way is flat and dull in terms of grey endurance,
May your imagination continue to evoke horizons.
When thirst burns in times of drought,
May you be blessed to find wells.
May you have the wisdom to read time clearly
And know when the seed of change will flourish.
In your heart may there be a sanctuary
For the stillness where clarity is born.
May your work be infused with passion and creativity
And have the wisdom to balance compassion and challenge.
May your soul find the graciousness
To rise above the fester of small mediocrities.
May your power never become a shell
Wherein your heart would silently atrophy.
May you welcome your own vulnerability
As the ground where healing and truth join.
May integrity of the soul be your first ideal,
The source that will guide and bless your work.
Benedictus: A Book of Blessings
Looking intensely at me, when I finished, he said, “That is very powerful, thank you.” I asked him for a picture of the two of us – and then wished him all the best.
This brings up the question of who can bless. I guess I never really thought about it – but somehow I assumed that the bestowing of blessings is for those who are ordained – or religious. But this is not true. Not only can we all bless, we are all called to bless one another on our journeys. We need not bless only with words, but with kindness, too. So all of us can bless – and we can bless anyone. Even presidents.