“April and May include holy days. Christians celebrate Easter on April 1. Jews celebrate Passover on April 6. Muslims begin Ramadan on May 16. These are very significant events for those who adhere to religious practice.

Living with differences is challenging. For the secular, who practice no religion, it is hard to know what to do with others’ holy days. For the religious, it is hard to know what to do with secular objections to their holy days. Religious practice is seldom eclectic. By its very nature, it distinguishes itself from others. So does the philosophy of secularism.

“So, each December we are faced with the Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays versus Season’s Greetings dilemma. Non-religious people may have Christmas dinners and Easter dinners without celebrating the essence of the holy days themselves. And, religious people realize that their holidays evolved and were shaped by traditions other than their own. Nothing is simple it seems.

“Today is my friend’s birthday. I’m asking how I might make it special for him. It is not my birthday. But, I’ll be okay with having a taste of his cake. It’s not my birthday, but I’ll be glad to tell him Happy Birthday. It’s not me getting older, but I may razz him about aging. The day holds no significance for me. But, if I fail to acknowledge its significance for my friend, I’ll feel the need to apologize and tell him belated Happy Birthday.

“How can I recognize the significance of another’s holy day? I don’t have to adopt the other’s belief. I don’t have to adopt the others’ practices. I don’t have to share the other’s thoughts or opinions. But, I can still say, “Happy Easter” or acknowledge Passover or Ramadan. I can respect the significance the day holds for the other. I can respect and acknowledge that I care about the other’s life experience. I can wish the person well in discovering life’s meaning in the process of observing a special day.

“May you discover special significance in the days you observe, celebrate, or remember AND in respectfully acknowledging others’ special days.”

Dean Heisey
Chaplain Dean has served Elkhart General Hospital since April, 2014.
He can be reached at drheisey@beaconhealthsystem.org or Chaplain’s Office 574.523.3142.