No, Miss Manners, that's not it
In a recent Miss Manners column, the reader says
When given devastating news, such as learning that a friend has Stage 4 cancer, my first thought is to say, “You will be in my prayers.’’I'm a little bit curious about that "this" that she wants others to know. I presume she means that she cares about them, but I can't really tell from the letter, where it sounds like she wants "another way" to let them know her first thought, which is to pray for them. However, I'm really writing this because Miss Manners manages to say that atheists ought be to be okay with that. Specifically, she says
But if a friend is not of the same religious beliefs or is an atheist, this is not always appreciated. Is there another way of letting them know this?
"Miss Manners would think that a nonreligious person could appreciate a religious person’s seeking the solace in which he or she believes."O fer... Sure. I'm happy if someone praying gets solace from it. The thing is, it's supposed to make me feel better that they're praying for me. That's why they tell me. That's what they're doing "for me" in my time of Stage 4 cancer. They're praying. They're not offering to bring food, or drive me to my chemo treatment, or take my dog for a walk, or cut my grass, or do my shopping, or look after my kids for an afternoon, or do my laundry.* They're praying.
And that's useless to me. And it's selfish of them. And yet I'm supposed to thank them for it.
I don't generally snark at it, but it doesn't do anything to give me solace.
*When I had cancer, it wasn't Stage 4, and I had neither kids nor a dog. But trust me: there was a big difference between the (very religious, by the way) coworker who showed up to drive me to chemo every three weeks and the ones who sent me cards praying for me.