Of Saints and Scalawags

One of the things I love most about November is that it is bracketed by two really wonderful days.  The first of which is All Saints' Day (also known as All Hallows - the day before which is All Hallows Eve or Halloween) in Western Christianity.  It is on this day that we celebrate the lives of the saints who have gone before.

The second day is, of course, Thanksgiving occurring on the fourth Thursday of the month in the United States.  It is the day on which we traditionally give thanks for the bounty of the earth and celebrate family.

I think it is fitting that these two days which seem to speak into and out of one another occur in the same month.  Both of these holidays fill me with more than a bit of nostalgia as well as a spirit full of gratitude.

In my family of origin, Thanksgiving was the time when we had a huge family reunion (I have written before about the importance of these gatherings to me - see New Narrative - A Lesson Learned at the Kid's Table). The cooking began days before the grand occasion.  And let's just say that the cornucopia was overflowing.  We had potatoes, pies, and parsnips; beans with bacon, bread, and beef and noodles; candied yams, cauliflower and casseroles; turkey, trimmings, and tryptophan naps (I know that there isn't enough tryptophan in turkey to cause drowsiness, but it started with a "t" so I used it!).  Cousins, aunts, uncles, distant relatives, and friends would begin to gather in my grandmother's much-too-small-for-such-gatherings house.  And on the day set aside for the festivities, we would feast and laugh and argue and celebrate together.  They were wonderful and sometimes painful get-togethers.

Many of those who filled my grandmother's family room and kitchen with life and joy have long since passed away.  As I have reminisced about these wonderful souls, I have been reminded that the saints we celebrate (even those who have been canonized) were not perfection personified.  No, these people who were and are an important part of our lives were equal parts scalawag and saint.  That may be what makes them so important to us.  They are real people.  They are people who lived or are living lives full of contradictions. This speaks volumes into our own lives that are often marred by the same incongruities and inconsistencies. Their example is more powerful to us when we allow them to be real.

So perhaps it is time to take our saints down off of the pedestals we have placed them on and allow them to get their feet dirty once again.  They lived this messy thing that we call life as real people.  People with callouses on their palms and dirt under their nails.  People with hearts of gold and mouths dripping with sarcasm.  People who were equal parts saint and scalawag.  Let us give thanks for these saintly scalawags who have shown us what it means to live; what it means to be human.

Who are some of the saintly scalawags who add dimension to your life?


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