The morning after the presidential election breaks still and gentle. The colors of the landscape – pale gray, faded blue, soft green – make me think of cashmere sweaters. There is no breeze worth noting. The flag that proclaims “Welcome Friends” hangs straight and limp from the flagpole and the wind chimes ring out only the infrequent single note.
Breathing in the smell of just-cut grass, I realize for the first time time that election day and All Saints’ Sunday are in the same week. I cannot imagine that this is a coincidence, that the founding fathers did not in some way recognize it and find some significance in the juxtaposition of the two events. Perhaps someone among them considered that the great experiment, which would remain a great experiment even 229 years later, could use an assist from the great cloud of witnesses referenced by Saint Paul.
On Sunday, as is usual, the pastor reminded us that it is not only those who have died who are considered by the church to be saints, but all of us. All of us saints.
And, so, with that thought in mind, I stand on the front porch of Sandhill, gaze out across the cotton fields still to be harvested, and try to think of myself that way, as Saint Kathy. Try to decide how I should walk into the world on a day in which, in the words of one of my young friends, “half of America thinks the apocalypse is coming and the other half thinks the savior has arrived already.”
In the distance I hear a diesel engine. Across the way I see a tree has fallen, damaged most likely in the hurricane and, finally, after a month of struggle, overcome by gravity. On my face and my arms I can feel the dampness of not-yet-evaporated dew. I see and hear and feel and it is all beautiful, all overwhelmingly beautiful.
I have not forgotten about Omran Daqneesh, the little boy in the Syrian ambulance. I have not forgotten about the tragedies in Charleston and Orlando and Dallas. I have not forgotten the children whose faces I see every day, the ones who live in poverty, the ones who struggle with mental health issues, the ones whose families are fractured.
The late Irish poet John O’Donohue said that beauty is “that in the presence of which we feel more alive.” If he is right – and I believe he is – then there is beauty in the tear-streaked face of five-year-old Omran. There is beauty in the passion and dignity of the mourners of tragedies. There is beauty in the suffering of those whose voices have not yet been heard. There is beauty because in their presence I am more alive.
And I realize that that is how I walk into this day. That is the Gospel of Saint Kathy, the good news that I am called to share – the good news that beauty still exists and we will find it in each other, not just in our similarities, but in our differences. That beauty still exists and we will find it when we listen to each other’s stories with interest and patience. That beauty still exists and kindness is still possible and disagreement doesn’t have to be polarizing. And that in the embrace of beauty we can change the world.
That is how I will walk into this day. And every day. And all the saints said, “Amen.”