Today is All Saints Day, a day to celebrate all of those saints, both known and unknown. Regardless of whether you are celebrating the holiday today or not though; there is certainly something to be learned from it. You see, saints are those who have shown the way. They are ordinary people who came into the world in the same way that you or I did. Some were born rich, others poor. Some were particularly gifted; others had great physical deformities which made their lives particularly difficult.
But, all of them have one thing I common: they overcame obstacles while walking the on the high road. You see, it isn’t some angel that comes down from heaven and makes you a saint by decree. These people were just that: people.
What makes us different in the end? It certainly isn’t our potential because we all have that. I’d argue that it’s our choices. Let’s face it, it isn’t easy to act with patience or kindness when the person we have facing us is particularly difficult, crass or disrespectful. We know the “right thing to do”; but we tend to be focused on our own goals, our own pride, our own needs and those daily struggles which seem to sometimes remove our ability to see the much greater picture. It is part of being human after all.
Let me be very clear: I am not writing this in an attempt to convert you to a different religion or to burden you with guilt. What I want you to know though is that the reason that saints are so wonderfully important to me is that they show me what can be done… because they have done it.
Superheroes in their capes are great fun. But because they are fictional characters, they are only that: fun. We can dress up to look like them; but it doesn’t make us able to fly or shoot spider webs from our hands.
Saints though have done those things that we strive to do and they’ve done it under the harshest of circumstances. The one thing they all have in common is that they didn’t let go of their belief of what is right. So, whether you believe in literal saints or not and regardless of how or to whom you pray; isn’t this something that we can all agree on: Miracles are possible and regular people are the tools that make it happen.
Many of you have worked to improve the lives of others, some of whom you will never meet. To those people, you were saints. Perhaps you (like me!) wouldn’t want people to know all of the errors you’ve committed in life. You might not want to have your mistakes printed in the local newspaper. The thing is that is why you are human. I know I’d never come close to passing even the most rudimentary stages of the scrutiny involved in attaining sainthood! But, I can say that I look to the perfect example of how to be and it inspires me to know that even I can be a concrete tool for the creation of good things in the life of someone else.
When I imagine myself throwing a dinner party for a group of saints, I think of whom I’d like to have next to me for interesting dinner conversation and many of you would be invited. Among my guest list would be a few friends like Geoff, Nigel, Kathleen, Tomas, Ida, Paul, Dominic, Freweini… Hmm, now that I think about it: It would have to be a really large dinner table!
There are hundreds of people whose paths have crossed mine over the years who have made me strive to work harder, smarter and more faithfully to improve the lives of African women and children. There are those who simply stopped to encourage me along my own journey. Many others skipped one of life’s little pleasures in order to make a small donation to our cause. I’ve met women who decided to offer their own child one less gift for their birthday or at Hanukkah or Christmas in order to donate so that one of our coop members could see her child receive a present or school supplies. We have received orders for multiple gift baskets with a note that says that someone is committing to only offering fair and ethically traded gifts to their friends and family. Some businesses decide to throw an office party using our larger gift baskets instead of offering small individual gifts to their employees.
Then there are those who pray for our women, fundraise for them or invite me to come speak so that we can spread the word about concrete and efficient ways to help. Every single person who acts is a piece of the puzzle. Every individual is a saint to us.
Happy All Saints Day everyone and thanks so much for each act, each purchase and each voice… we’d be nowhere without them!