I love this time of year.
After months of hot, dry weather, the temperature begins to fall, and the leaves do the same.
While we don’t have the glorious autumnal colors of other parts of the country, we sense the change of seasons in more subtle ways.
The chill in the morning air requires an extra blanket on our beds, we don a sweater for the first time in months, and maybe, just maybe, a fire in the fireplace.
The cooler weather demands soup on the stove and some pumpkin pie…and, for that matter, all things pumpkin-spice. And if all this weren’t enough, we end the month with a day dedicated to gratitude and feasting with family and friends. What could be better?
For many Christians, the first of November marks All Saints’ Day, a day to remember and honor all of the saints who have gone before us in our lives.
While we often think of the “official” saints (the ones with a “St.” in front of their names and have churches and universities named after them), I am generally more moved by the ordinary people/saints who have personally touched my life.
I think of my Grandma Liz, a Southern woman of great gentility, warmth and wisdom, whose careful use of speech always conveyed both her kindness and intelligence, as well as her sly sense of humor.
On All Saints’ Day I am grateful for my mentor, Helen, who took me under her wing when I was a struggling teenager, listened intently to my questions, doubts and fears, and loved me into owning my own experience, choices and voice.
I think of the selfless love of parents, the dedication of teachers, and the countless souls who serve in soup kitchens, build houses and care for those who are sick or homebound- all of these are “saints” in my book. As a pastor, I have been humbled and inspired by those saints who have faced life’s challenges, illness and even death with both grace and courage. All of these ordinary people who live with joy, humor, compassion, generosity, persistence and faithfulness inspire me each day.
Who would you count among the “saints” in your life? Perhaps take a moment today to give thanks for them, and if they are still with you, let them know of your gratitude and appreciation for their presence in your life.
All Saints’ Day also reminds me of the role I may hopefully be privileged to play in someone else’s life.
Will I be a person that someone counts among the saints in their life? As I think about those who have come alongside me to lend their courage or compassion, I find myself wondering about my own impact.
Am I person who other’s can count on to be a voice of hope, a listening ear, a source of strength and companionship in the midst of life’s ups and downs? Is my life marked by the kindness and generosity that so many people have extended to me?
As we reflect on our saints and enter into this month of gratitude, I am reminded of this piece of a lovely poem by the twentieth-century theologian and mystic, Howard Thurman:
“We begin with the simple things of our days:
Fresh air to breathe,
Cool water to drink,
The taste of food,
The protection of houses and clothes,
The comforts of home.
For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day!
We bring to mind all the warmth of humankind that we have known:
Our mothers’ arms,
The strength of our fathers,
The playmates of our childhood,
The wonderful stories brought to us from the lives of many who
talked of days gone by when fairies and giants and diverse kinds
of magic held sway;
The tears we have shed, the tears we have seen;
The excitement of laughter and the twinkle in the eye with
its reminder that life is good.
For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day.”
May this season of Thanksgiving fill you with much joy, gratitude and peace.