One of the threads of civil society is the extension of formal greetings among its members. Greetings vary , of course , depending on culture and circumstance. Today, we are surrounded by "Holiday Greetings"- for the Christian community, "Merry Christmas " is the appropriate wish. "Happy Hannukah", for Jews and a "Happy Kwanza" for those with African roots and an Afro-American cultural background. For those of us who wish to remain all inclusive and non specific, the greeting of the day would be-"Happy Holidays!"
When we run into a friend or acquaintance, an expression of our concern and interest is usually articulated in the query-"How are you?" However sincere or rote- like the tone of the inquiry , it remains a necessary part of common human interaction. Responses to this question vary too, from a formal to a more personal, in-depth reply.
Among traditional Jews, when asked about their wellbeing and that of their loved ones, the response is not one pf providing information as much as one of gratefulness, almost a miniature prayer. "Baruch Hashem"- Blessed be Hashem, God, is the instinctive retort. Somewhat amusingly, it has been said that upon hearing that reply the recipient would come back with a response of some irritation-"I asked how you are, not for a prayer!"
But if one examines this traditional Jewish reply with an open heart , I believe that we can discover a powerful, yet brief and simple way by which to regularly construct an attitude of gratefulness in our lives. Whether the news is "good"or "bad," whether there is health or illness, success or failure, prosperity or want, the answer to life in its totality remains steady and certain-'Baruch Hashem"- I thank the Source of Life for whatever I have.
In the ordinary , everyday encounter, we are offered the opportunity to refine our conscious awareness of life's wonders.
Whatever the nature of greetings you may be met with at this season of the year, to greet them with gratefulness is a response that can be shared by all.