I am counting my blessings this season and especially during my week-long visit to my hometown, Chattanooga, Tennessee. I've found that southerners have a habit of blessing you often and for many reasons, As in:
"Have blessed day!" -- Cashiers seem to say this a lot.
"God bless you." -- Said anytime for any reason. Not limited to sneezing.
"Count your blessings." -- What people say when you say life is better or just the same.
"Did you say the blessing?" -- Said before meals and usually after I have started eating.
"You have my blessing." As in "Go for it." or "I approve." (My husband committed a crime against southern manners by neglecting to ask for my father's blessing before he proposed marriage.)
And finally the classic, "Bless your heart," (aka "that's nice") or "Bless her heart," which to the contrary can mean, "That's too darn bad!" (e.g., "She is starting to show her age. Bless her heart.")
In New York, "blessing" is usually about blessing someone out. As in, "How dare you increase my interest rate because I am two cents past due on my credit card payment!" After the credit card customer service operator adjusted the interest rate to a favorable number she ended the call with "Have a blessed day." I was completely disarmed by her words.
I tried saying "Have a blessed day" to people to be nice, share cheer and make them feel better. But coming out of my mouth, it just didn't sound sincere. It's not something I usually say, so I came up with another way to share kind words and thoughts to give someone a lift. It's called Pray It Forward. It works like this:
Write a nice note, post a message or pick up the phone and call someone to say: "I have you in my thoughts and prayers." "I am sending you happy thoughts." "I am thinking of you and wishing you a beautiful day." It's not only what you say but also how you say it or demonstrate it. Make it sincere and in your own words. Just don't hold back. There is always someone who needs a spirited or spiritual lift, especially at this "happiest time of the year."
Then, tell that someone to "Pray it forward" to brighten someone else's day. Just imagine if we shared more happy thoughts than stupid selfies and more kind words to say "thinking of you" to balance out all the "hey, look at me!" It's about refocusing "getting what you want" with "giving what you can." It's about giving words of encouragement. Not everyone needs a wrapped gift but many I know could use a prayer or gift of kind words.