Most will find from our monthly newsletters that I tend to look at life through my years as a youth. It was a special time when you could savor the simple things life had to offer and take those exciting moments and defeats a bit more in stride. Of course we didn’t have families to support, financial responsibilities to meet, and those never-ending deadlines that collectively seemed to have stolen those precious moments of reflection and appreciation from our lives. We just savored the simple pleasures of life, oftentimes taking them for granted. I always considered myself a “summer kid,” as my fondest recollections revolved around summers spent outdoors at our home on Shelter Island, New York.
After what seemed like an eternity being confined indoors due to harsh winter weather, I couldn’t wait for spring to arrive with the awakening of its colorful plants and trees signaling summer was just around the corner. It was like watching a black and white picture come to life with color and air that smelled so fresh and clean. Once again we were outdoors looking forward to endless hours of bike riding, the start of the little league season, and a host of other outdoor activities along with those special holidays of Mother’s Day and Easter.
This year we are experiencing a different kind of spring, and one not so different in some ways from those I experienced as a child. While we are starting to “awaken” from the “confinement” we’ve experienced over the past few months and resume our “physical” connection with friends, I think we are doing it with a greater appreciation for our home life, our families and the friends who make our lives so special.
During these past few months, I’ve seen couples taking walks hand in hand, families bicycling and kayaking together, neighbors celebrating cocktail hour on the quiet streets in which they live, and with joyful amazement, I watched a group of couples from the condos across the water from our home dancing on the lawn and docks to songs from years gone by. There is no doubt in my mind, while we are experiencing a very different chapter in our lives; our inherent desire to be socially connected and enjoy the simple pleasures life affords us has not changed.
While we are adjusting to our new way of life in how we live, work and play, I find myself saying “History has a way of repeating itself,” and I’m not going to squander the lessons learned from this reset. I am going to savor my times with friends and family, along with the blessings I received, with a renewed appreciation long after the challenges we currently face have passed. I also feel our community will be the beneficiary of this renewed personal connection with each other. I sense more of a community spirit as we look to support those local businesses fighting to stay alive while doing their best to serve the community. Like many I speak to, there is a pent up desire for people to embrace their communities and each other during this time with a spirit of “We’ll get through this together.”
In an article I recently read by internationally acclaimed speaker and bestselling author John O’Leary, he describes a conversation he had with his grandfather during lunch twenty years ago that changed his perception of the meaning of success. With vivid detail he recalls his grandfather’s question, “Do you know why they call my generation the “Greatest Generation?” It isn’t because we survived the Great Depression…. It’s not because we served in World War II…..It’s not because we came home and built the most productive society in the history of the world. They call us the Greatest Generation because we never forgot all the lessons learned along the way. The Depression taught us to value the little things and to live within our means. The war taught us what real evil looked like, what real sacrifice looked like, what real heroism looked like.”
John continues, “The Greatest Generations conception has much in common with the situation we find ourselves in now…. The collapsing markets and soaring unemployment witnessed by my grandfather evolved into the practice of appreciating the little things, living within their means, and taking nothing for granted.
Likewise, we have the opportunity to shift into this mindset for the long haul, instead of shifting back to the over-scheduled, over-extended, avaricious society we found ourselves in before we were rocked by shelter in place orders.”
He concludes by saying, “Although the journey forward remains unclear, the Greatest Generation reminds us that what defines a society during adversity is not only how they respond in the midst of it, but whether they afterward apply the lessons they’ve learned from it.“
This is just one of the many lessons I’ve learned and one I remind myself that “All is well.”
As you know, each month we like to highlight the accomplishments of someone who has given much of himself or herself for the betterment of their community. This month we would like to recognize Maewyn Succat. Who’s Maewyn Succat you ask? He isn’t anyone I heard of and most likely isn’t a name you’ve ever heard of either, yet somehow he has impacted our lives in ways you never thought possible.
According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Maewyn Succat was born in Britain and around age 16 (around 400 A.D.) he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave where he worked as a shepherd. After six years he escaped and returned home and received “a calling” to preach the gospel and spent the next 15 years in a monastery preparing himself for mission work. Once he became a priest his name was changed to Patricius and eventually to Patrick. St. Patrick, as he is known today, was considered a patron saint and national apostle of Ireland and is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. It is said he used the three leaf shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity, however, many years later the fourth leaf was added by the ancient Celts as a charm to ward off evil spirits. While the Almanac says there is no direct record St. Patrick actually used the shamrock as a “teaching tool,” in the early 1900’s O.H. Benson, who was an Iowa school superintendent, came up with the idea of using the shamrock as an “emblem for the newly founded agricultural club.” In 1911, the “four-leaf clover” was chosen as the emblem for this national club program, later known as 4-H.
Many centuries later, St. Patrick’s Day marks the day of his passing, but it is far from the somber religious holiday you would think. It is perhaps the only day of the year that regardless of one’s religious, political or ethnic background we all become Irish for a day. The saying that sums this up best for me is, “Irish today, Jewish tomorrow.” This is in reference to the year round Jewish deli staple of corned beef becoming part of the traditional St. Patrick’s Day dinner of corned beef and cabbage. And just like New Year’s, there is a camaraderie and revelry on this day second to none. Irish pubs around the world celebrate this day and none do it better than Punta Gorda’s Celtic Ray Public House.
Opened in 1997 by Proprietor Kevin Doyle, “The Celtic Ray,” as it is known by the locals, has continued to evolve and expand from being one of the only places around offering “the quality of imported beers and the atmosphere of a traditional Irish Pub,” to an eating and entertainment destination. As Kevin Doyle, “Publican” so aptly states on his website, “Bars are filled with lonely people. A pub is a very social scene. “You may come alone, but you won’t be for long,” and if you are around this St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll be in good company with hundreds of Irish men and women just like yourself!
Rich in tradition and personality, the bartenders and wait staff at the Celtic Ray take on Kevin’s engaging wit. In fact years ago there used to be a bartender by the name of “Tess.” Tess was a real spitfire. Rail thin, heavy smoker, raspy voice and known for razzing all those who stepped up to the bar. Years ago, a friend of mine decided to stop for beer. Tess greeted him in her usual manner and in her heavy Irish brogue asked, “What’a ya have luv?” My friend replied, “What kind of beers do you have Tess?,” to which she rattled off several imports. My friend said, “How about a Miller Lite,” to which Tess replied, “What di ya say? ya go on a get the hell outta here.” It was her reply that kept customers entertained and coming back for more. A couple of years ago I went there with our son and saw Kevin and asked if he still kept in touch with Tess, as I heard she returned to her home land. Kevin replied, “She went back to Scotland.” “Scotland?” I questioned, “How’s that working out.” Without missing a beat Kevin replied, “She’s a librarian, and this guy came in one day and asked for a book on suicide. She told him, “Go on and get the hell outta here, you’re not going to return it.” I asked Kevin if he was kidding and he said, “It sounded good didn’t it!” I don’t think you’ll confuse Kevin or his Celtic Ray with St. Patrick and his mission work, but somehow the atmosphere Kevin has created is a place where strangers come from all walks of life leave as friends.
If you are looking to make this St. Patrick’s Day one to remember, or just looking to getting in touch with your “Irish” heritage, even if it is for just a day, be sure you make a visit to the Celtic Ray as part of this special day. “You may come alone, but you won’t be for long.”