I took a break from the headlines this morning and stopped focusing on the bold-faced names. In the space freed up, I gave thanks for the neighbors who raked a few leaves this week so that our gutters wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the rain… I thought about the social worker in Baltimore county who hasn’t missed a beat since March, organizing food distribution on Wednesdays, health-checks on Tuesdays, and homework help every other afternoon… I thought about the teacher in Rosedale who keeps coming up with new ways to find the 7th graders who haven’t shown up on-line… I thought about the folks we have buried over the last months, and the babies born, and the couples who figured out how to get married in little circles of ten (with grandma and grandpa on Zoom or parked a safe distance away)… Before dawn today, my body weaves the ache of the last six months with the hope for next Tuesday’s decision, especially for folks who sweep up around the bottom. If Jesus is the model, our work is to make sure the top of the ticket knows what’s going on with the rest of us. This election is about making sure that every one of us can rise and thrive.
With covid-19 cases increasing, I think about Jason, who works the night shift at the hospital. He’s a great big man with a very quiet voice, whose job is to give a shower to people who can no longer bathe themselves, and to help them go to the bathroom when they call in the middle of the night.
And Annie the nurse, who disarms with humor the most frustrated teenager, paralyzed by an automobile accident, or businessman halted by an aneurysm, distracting patients from what they can’t do and helping them see all that they can still accomplish. “Baby, you go ahead and cry if you need to, but we’re also going to laugh some,” she says. “We don’t have any invalids around here, no sir. Just folks who’ve got to learn a new way to do things. And if this old dog can still learn a new trick, then you can, too.”
And Rosalie, who for eleven years took critically ill babies home from the hospital, because they didn’t have parents or anyone else who could take care of them. She and her husband Joe, who just got over the virus, gave the infants weeks or a few months of comfort and a decent burial, adding strength and solidarity to their brief and often difficult lives. One child thrived beyond anyone’s expectations, through several major surgeries and significant disabilities, and she’s now their 30-year-old adopted daughter.
By any name, these people are saints.
Jesus never praised climbing the ladder of success. In fact, he warned against it. “Don’t take the best seat at dinner. Don’t lay up your treasures on earth. Don’t curry favor with those in power.” Instead Jesus focused our eyes on people from whom we usually look away: the lost, the lonely, the lame, and the left-behind.
Blessed are you, he said, when you are poor in spirit; when you are laid low by mourning; when you are meek and unheard; when you long for justice with all your heart; when you are merciful; when your heart is pure enough to see good in every person; when you help make peace. We do not find the light of God in our lives apart from our suffering. Saints don’t direct us to easy, comfortable ways. The ones I know show us how to keep going in deep darkness, how to survive the bullies, how to have hope in the mean times. (paraphrase of Nancy Rockwell)
Look in each other’s eyes when you stand in line to vote: that’s where the action is. With God’s help, the world is being restored by everyday saints.