I’m realizing that there are people from my past that I think about often. They’d probably have been surprised to know it, but they are some of the “saints” I recall, people who in one way or another have helped me grow, helped me grow up, helped me move into being my true self, helped me know more of God.
I bet you’ve got some of those people in your life. I’d love to hear about them.
- My maternal grandmother, Anne Dodd, who was born in 1907. She never got tired of pushing me in the swing. She took care of everybody she came across… even hiring a blind man to take care of her yard (because he needed a job). She wore high heels to the end.
- I’ve looked for many years for a college professor who meant a lot to me. In the era of Google, it shouldn’t be so hard to find someone… but I’ve hit dead-ends in trying to find and thank one particular Chris Frost who taught at Davidson College in the late seventies/early eighties. He wasn’t afraid to show his emotions and passion for his subject. Any reference to Greek mythology has me feeling grateful for Chris Frost.
- April 1 is the birthday of one of my heroes, a great man named Joe Holston, who died in 1994 in his eighties but touched a lot of people before that. I often popped in to see him at the local store even when I didn’t need anything, but when I did need groceries, he’d hold my baby while I shopped and then bag my purchases. He anchored the neighborhood in goodness. We had cancer at the same time. I’m still alive.
- Mary Matheson was a lady at my church when I was in my early thirties. She was infinitely patient with my questions about faith and life, which didn’t change much. While she was close to dying, she wrote me a note telling me it “would be a joy to spend time with (me).” But it wasn’t the sort of “I wish I could have a visitor” note that the dying might typically send; it was about me. Because she knew I found that hard to believe. And needed to hear it.
- After breast cancer, I had a lengthy period of reconstruction with regular visits to one of my doctors, Tom Sanzaro. His humor and warmth made a tough time palatable. He died too young.
I barely knew some of these folks, really, but they all meant a lot to me. I’m a big believer in the impact of brief encounters, short relationships that last for a season, and the importance of connecting with people, even if we don’t know them deeply on every level. I’m convinced that we often weigh down certain sorts of relationships (particularly romantic ones) with major gravitas, expecting them to be the ones that give us value, help us define who we are, and meet all our needs.
No relationship can handle all of that expectation.
And “minor” relationships can carry a surprising amount of relational heft, showing up when we need a lift, sharing a word that makes all the difference, bearing a bit of pain with us, or providing fun and comfort any number of ways.