The answer was right there in the lyrics of an old song and I never saw it until now.
The origins of “Bless ‘Em All” are a little sketchy, but the song is probably most associated with World War II. Or at least it is to my way of thinking.
For those of you who may know not this little ditty, it goes something like this:
Bless 'em all, Bless 'em all.
The long and the short and the tall,
Bless all those Sergeants and WO1's,
Bless all those Corporals and their blinkin'sons…
My dad, a WWII veteran, knew this song and he told me the rank-and-file soldiers often substituted another word for “bless.” Please feel free to use your imagination.
There’s also a play and film entitled The Long and the Short and The Tall that we watched when we were kids and we always laughed when one character told another “I can be a bigger bastard than you!”
The song had been out of my head for the longest time until I went to confession at the Church of Saint Agnes, which is close to my new office.
Saint Agnes was established in 1873 to serve the laborers who built nearby Grand Central Terminal, which is holy ground to me.
I’m flying to Chicago tomorrow for work and I don’t like getting on a plane without first receiving communion and confessing my sins.
I told the priest I’m still working on the anger and how I’m still furious with so many people from my past, even though they’ve been out of my life for decades. And the priest gave me some rather odd advice.
“You should ask God to bless them,” he said.
As Back to Their Billets They’ll Crawl
How’s that? Bless these mutts who did me dirty? This is a joke, right? Yeah, I’ll ask the Almighty to bless them, all right—with a pile of bricks.
It’s hard to believe, but I found that he was right.
Whenever I thought about someone who had pissed me off, I asked God to bless that person and the anger just dissipated.
It ain't easy being mad at people while you’re wishing them well. My hostile nature gets all confused.
Forgiveness is important, of course, but taking that extra step and asking for God’s blessing on those who caused you woe gives you the power to evict those malingering spirits.
“I want you to say one Our Father and the Hail Marys,” the priest said, “and I want you to say them for someone who is dying today.”
This was fabulous. Not only did he give me a way to reduce my rage, but he got me thinking of others as well.
We’re all going to leave this world someday, so it’s important to pray for those who are going now because I’ll want the same kindness when it’s my turn.
There’ll be no promotions on this side of the ocean, but as long as I can, I’ll bless ‘em all.