I have lived in many different types of communities during my life. My dad worked for the banks and so it meant moved every few years. Some were very small towns. Others were small cities. And in ministry, I have been lucky enough to serve very different communities as well: from rural, suburban, downtown neighbourhoods, Canadian and Australian places.
Such moving around to very diverse communities has taught me many things. I think in a small town, support for one another is quite important. The businesses one deals with, the teachers in the local schools, the nurses in the local hospitals are often one's neighbours who you'll meet in the grocery store, the local cafe, and at the post office. In large cities, the big thing is diversity. People come from different places. They speak different languages. Chances are the bank teller that serves me lives miles away on a street where no one knows me. I might not know anyone when I go into the local grocery store.
But I also have learned that despite the differences, people no matter where they live are really very much a like. All people from country dwellers to urbanite apartment residents are concerned about the welfare of their families. All people want in some ways to make their contribution to make their bit of the world a better place. All people are looking for connection with family, friends and society. Despite the differences between country folk and city folk, we are essentially human and the same.
Today though I write of a different community. Friday November 1st is All Saints' Day, a day when we pause to remember all those men and women who have lived and died on the earth. Some would have been wonderful people- people who we would naturally call saints- Francis of Assisi, or St Teresa of Avila. Others may not be so saintly, Jack the Ripper or Lucretia Borgia- but on this day we remember them as those who have gone before.
I like to think of myself as a self made man. I know that I have inherited some qualities of my parents. From my mother I know I am an introvert. She was shy and so am I but I also inherited some of my father's charm skills. I inherited my kind nature from one aunt. I inherited my sense of humour from one uncle. I inherited my love of church from a grandmother. But outside of my family there were others who influenced me. One teacher taught me to love movies. A colleague taught me how powerful photographs can be. A friend of my mother taught me the love of travel. A high school principal encouraged my musical gifts. I realize all these mentors were also influenced by their own mentors who in turn were inspired by their own guides. As much as I think of myself as my own person, I am a unique mixture of saint, demon, and those folks who have come before who one can only describe as ordinary. Those who have gone before, have made me who I am.
Realizing that I am the product of all saints makes me understand others. Although their mixture of saints, sinners and humdrum people might be different, other folks are made up of the same influences as I am. That means I am in community with them. Whether they live in cities or towns, whether they were born in the developed world or in an emerging country- we are all products of the saints of the past. Blessings.