• Sandy Reynolds

Is there more behind St. Patrick's Day besides green beer?

This feels very personal to share. I'm writing a memoir so I'm seeing this as practice! I think we all are a work in progress. I know I am.


On March 17th, 2019, I was publicly shamed for saying, “Happy St. Patrick’s Day.” I’m not sure the intention of the woman who decided to school me on colonialism and how St. Patrick had been responsible for attacking and eliminating much of the indigenous Irish Druid and Pagan Celtic culture by bringing Roman Catholicism to Ireland. She went on such a rant that I concluded that she had been locked and loaded, waiting for some unsuspecting person (me) to mention St. Patrick's Day. I want to think that she had good intentions even if she was misguided in her approach. It was clear to her I needed an education.


How did I respond? I mumbled something about my mother being from Ireland, and celebrating St. Patrick’s Day was part of my heritage, and then I fumed for most of the day. I was embarrassed. I was angry. I felt called out in a way that shut me down. I could see others in the group felt awkward and didn't engage in the conversation. It got quiet in the room. Calling something out like this doesn't help us deal with our history's pain and trauma. I hadn't thought about St. Patrick's Day as being offensive to anyone.


I’m still thinking about what happened. It came up for me this week in another new group. We were forming a team agreement around how we would treat each other. I shared the story and suggested that we don’t ‘educate’ anyone publicly. We had quite a discussion about learning together and how we all learn when we talk as a group about these things. Maybe. In the incident, I described there was no learning. There was no invitation to discuss or present an alternative or more nuanced perspective.


Last night my book club was discussing the chapter on Forgiveness in The Book of Joy. We talked about how forgiveness can help us find joy in our lives. I know the visceral feelings I have when I recall the St. Patrick’s Day shaming indicate that I need to do some work on forgiving the woman who chose to use my comment as her platform for education.


I am surprised that I still feel upset about it. This woman crossed a boundary and violated a value I have about creating safe spaces for learning. I know that it wasn’t the first time I saw her cross that boundary when leading a group. I can point to other examples where she did something similar. I can point all I want, but that doesn’t deal with how I’m feeling. I need to let it go.


Someone in my discussion group offered up The Hawaiian Ho’oponopono Prayer as a way to practice forgiveness. I read a little about it here.

There are four lines to the prayer focused on repentance, forgiveness, gratitude, and love. They are:

I am sorr