LUCK out for each other
Published in the Athlone Topic
While waiting for the traffic lights in Madrid to turn a patriotic green, I took the opportunity to wish the homeless woman who was selling gum and tissues by the side of the road, a "Feliz dia de San Patricio" and bought some mint chewing gum for €10.
I´m sure our patron saint wouldn't mind me sharing a little luck-of-the-Irish on Saint Patrick´s Day but as an immigrant in a land unfamiliar with the story of Saint Patrick, I feel very fortunate to be welcomed with a céad míle fáilte by our European neighbours, blessed in fact when you think how the world lets us indulge in our green fetish for shamrocks and clover.
Even though Spain is regarded as a Catholic country with many religious festivals, Spain has had very little time for Saint Patrick and I was asked to educate my school about our patron saint.
Father´s Day in Spain, the feast of San Jose, celebrates Saint Joseph on the 19th of March so there is little time to celebrate the two saints.
Making time this year with tri-colour bunting and stories about Saint Patrick, I decided to dye the water green in the staff canteen, taking a leaf out of the annual American celebrations, where they turn the Chicago River green.
All over the world, there will be many celebrations and most will focus on alcohol while some will wear silly green hats, myself included and some will wonder, what does Saint Patrick mean to us today? Something to chew on as you drive to work.
For me, Saint Patrick was firstly an immigrant brought to Ireland by pirates which makes the story of our 4th-century saint even more universal as we look at the tragedy of forced migration and the horrors of human trafficking today.
For me, dying the water green in my school and telling tall tales about Saint Patrick is very entertaining but not everyone has been as lucky as we are today and the Irish diaspora certainly didn't always have as much luck.
In the words of Kermit the Frog, "It's not easy being green", but with the world turning green on March 17th and An Taoiseach visiting the White House and many people receptive to all things Irish, Athlone has even seen delegations travelling to both Africa and America.
This year, if you can’t be lucky, create some luck for someone else, find meaning in the story of Saint Patrick and not just the Arthurian tale of drinking Guinness all day.
Something to chew on, as you pass someone in need.