The moment is upon us in most Christian traditions to remember the Saints of our faith.
All Saints’ Day is November 1. In many churches the following Sunday we’ll speak the names of those who’ve made a positive difference and whose lives shaped the contours of our own. We’ll give thanks for departed yet still beloved family members, friends, and others.
Remembering the Saints is an important exercise in acknowledging that we are made up of the influence of others; that the fabric of who we are has been knit by the inspiration, guidance, love, and encouragement of people who gave of themselves for our sake.
As valuable as it is to give thanks for folks who are no longer physically present, I’m also sold on the practice of giving thanks for – and to - those Saints who are still very much with us.
Lately I’ve noticed a new word popping up in our cultural lexicon: influencer. An influencer can be a designer of haute couture, a tech innovator, a blogger, or an adolescent whose video of a singing cat has gone viral on YouTube.
But I’m more concerned with influencers who’ve spent actual time with us, who we couldn’t imagine being absent from our life story.
A friend recently told me of her habit of thanking folks who’ve made an impact on her life. Her technique is a handwritten letter. As opposed to email, a nice longhand note is somehow more substantial, elegant, and appropriate to the purpose.
The recipient could be anyone from her recent or distant past. She’s tracked down grade-school teachers, neighbors, classmates, her first boss, piano teacher, and pediatrician. No preachers have yet to make the cut, but I haven’t lost hope.
For each of her influencers, she’s quite specific as to how and why they changed her life for the better. She describes the enlargement of her outlook and understanding due to their example, their tutelage, their loving-kindness, and their presence. She thanks them for the gift they provided her. She wants each one to know he or she is a Saint.
I asked if she ever received a response. “Oh yes!” she said. “Usually a delightful note of surprise, with something along the lines of, ‘It was nothing, really. But it means so much for you to say thanks.’”
Some replies are from a family member, informing her the intended recipient has died, but that her letter is now a treasured keepsake of their loved one’s legacy.
I’m determined to follow my friend’s example of thanking the Saints in my life, and not wait for a November Sunday in the future.
Every life story bears the inscription – or editorial craftsmanship – of the legion of influencers we’ve been blessed to encounter on our journey. They are gifts of God. They deserve to know our lives have been enriched by the gift of their own, and they are our living Saints.