As many of you may know, I’m not a Christian. That’s right, the whole Jesus thing kinda passed my by. It’s not that I have anything against your Lord, I just don’t give him much thought.
Except now. This is the time of year when people wish me a Merry Christmas, then back peddle, embarrassed, as if they had just told me to perform some anatomically unlikely act on myself.
So, I’m telling you all right now:
It’s OK to say “Merry Christmas” to this Jew. I realize that I’m a minority around here, and while there are certain things about being in a religiocultural minority that are problematic, having someone wish me a practically secular holiday greeting just doesn’t rate getting me annoyed.
Trust me when I tell you that people manage to find far more offensive things to say at any time of the year.
Now let’s remember that on this federal holiday (declared by President U.S. Grant along with New Year’s Day and Independence Day to give federal employees some days off), there are a whole lot of people still working. We may enjoy an easier drive to work (absent snow and ice), but we work just the same. In my little bit of life, it’s hospital employees who deserve special kudos. Most of them are, as my daughter would say, “Christmas people”, and have sacrificed important time to take care of sick people.
Many of us doctors aren’t Christian, but “other”: Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Jain, Druze, Ba’hai—really, you name it, we’ve got it. Sure, some of the doctors are Christian, but medicine is a world-wide fellowship whose identity often supercedes, or at least rests hierarchically near, religious identity. While I’d love to spend the day watching the snow fall with my daughter, there are people at the hospital who need me, who need the nurses, techs, cooks, environmental workers, all of our hospital family. As a non-Christian, I’m pleased to be able to give my time so that my colleagues can be home on what for them is a special day, and many of my non-Christian colleagues feel the same way.
Please, on this holiday, remember that many of us are taking calls, auscultating chests, lancing boils, and otherwise tending to those occurances that, like me, don’t recognize Christmas.
But don’t be afraid to wish me a Merry Christmas. I know you mean it in a nice way. And cookies—I like cookies.