I delivered a Thought for the Day for Radio Scotland, the text of which follows, by kind permission.
Good morning. Did you know that today is a Red Letter day? It’s called that, because if you open an old bible, the Saints’ days are marked out in the calendar in red letters. Today is a particularly red Red Letter day, because it’s All Saints Day.
I’m just back from New York. That side of the pond, they’re more concerned with Halloween and the Presidential Election. It was sometimes rather hard to tell which activity was which. The sidewalks were spray-painted with ‘Trumpkins’ and ‘Nasty Woman’ stencils, and the parades I passed alternated between ghouls and witches, and students with placards.
I had dinner beside King John, dressed head to foot in chain-mail, wearing a crown and carrying a large sword, who was earnestly discussing Hillary’s chances with a morph-suited Power Ranger.
I took refuge from the parades and the gothic in Central Park. Amongst the dog walkers and the birdsong, sitting in a pavilion by the lake, I watched an autumnal tree shed a twig into the water. It bobbed a little, and the water rippled out. The ripples spread and spread until they lapped the shore.
The saints were like that. People whose lives rippled out. So much so that we still celebrate them today.
Many of them had extraordinary lives. Many of them were martyred; and their world now seems an age away from ours. So maybe you don’t think that you know any saints. There’s a chance that you do. People whose quiet actions ripple out. Their cheerfulness, their love, their support; their generosity, their courage, their example.
Looking out of my window I can see one. An old man, my neighbour, bent double, with his stick. Every day he is out there, picking up litter, to keep our street beautiful. There is something extraordinary powerful about such an ordinary act.
We shouldn’t leave saintliness to the saints. Like him, our small actions can have a steadfast and powerful impact, that can ripple out too.