Archive | July 16, 2014

What is a saint to a pagan?

I sing a song of the saints of God,

Patient and brave and true,

Who toiled and fought and lived and died

For the Lord they loved and knew.

And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,

And one was a shepherdess on the green;

They were all of them saints of God, and I mean,

God helping, to be one too. (We sang “Yes, I mean to be one too.”)

They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,

And his love made them strong;

And they followed the right for Jesus’ sake

The whole of their good lives long.

And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,

And one was slain by a fierce wild beast;

And there’s not any reason, no, not the least,

Why I shouldn’t be one too.

They lived not only in ages past,

There are hundreds of thousands still.

The world is bright with the joyous saints

Who love to do Jesus’ will.

You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,

In church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea;

For the saints of God are just folk like me,

And I mean to be one too.

They lived not only in ages past;

There are hundreds of thousands still.

The world is bright with the joyous saints

Who love to do Jesus’ will.

You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,

In church, by the sea, in the house next door;

They are saints of God, whether rich or poor,

And I mean to be one too.

Okay, I know you’re wondering why this crazy pagan put up a Christian hymn. This is a hymn I grew up singing in the kid’s choir at Hollywood Pres where I grew up and it was a favourite. We were taught that we all could be saints but it took something extra not just being good and I think pagans can learn from that too. Some Protestant churches believe all people who have accepted Christ are saints but the Presbyterians don’t all necessarily subscribe to that, some people are recognizably special and since then I’ve known people from all religions that for me qualify as saints. To be a saint to be takes not perfection but a quality of kindness that shines through. We all know those special people that just shine no matter what. They don’t blow their own horn. They just go about their business and do what comes naturally to them. You can meet them in shops or in church or at sea.

It’s the reason I’m hyped about the movie, “Unbroken” coming out. It’s about a saint I grew up with and I don’t know anyone who didn’t love him the moment they met him. He was one of our Summer Church counselors and teachers at our church’s summer activity program when I was in Junior Hi and High School. We went to Zuma and Santa Monica beaches every week on Wednesday and Thursday we had activities at church and since Mom worked at church full time, we had to go after we finished Summer School for the summer.

Louis Zamperini or the Zamp as we called him was always there. And he was one of those people who could always “see” every kid not just the loud or popular ones. He made sure to talk to all the kids and really talk to them and not down or at you. He had this totally white hair from being a POW. He told us that had happened over night the first time they tortured him and he had the biggest thickest white chest hair I’ve ever seen and you could see him coming a mile away on the beach. As one of the fair redheads I came in for my share of scoldings from him for not wearing sunscreen. He was a bear for sunscreen and since in the 1960’s the prime tanning agent was Baby Oil, if he caught you with it he would go ballistic and he’d get graphic about being in the life raft and baking in the sun. I remember once he told me to just go climb in the frying pan with some cooking oil because it was about the same but since I burn and I knew how getting burned hurts, I listened. It wouldn’t be for a few years before I got the 3rd degree sunburned ( and when it happened, I thought of Louis) and since that was a church outing too I’m glad he wasn’t there for that.

But we learned that we could get him telling stories when we did stupid shit that could get us hurt. He told us about trying to get the souvenir at the Olympics and causing an international incident. He told us about his friend, Jessie Owens. He told us about meeting Hitler and how he really hadn’t wanted to but he was 19 years old and couldn’t figure a way out of it and how he had thought he was a big hot shot until he got to the Olympics and found out he was just a tadpole in that international pond not a big frog from Torrance CA. He told us so many stories but stories aren’t why I loved Louis. I loved Louis because when I was getting ignored or made fun of by someone, he still talked to me, he was kind.

In 7th grade I was 4’ 4’’ and 56 lbs. I was teeny tiny and I was a geek in glasses who pontificated on any subject that interested me and unfortunately, no one else. Over the next 2 years I grew a foot and gained 50 lbs and had no clue how to handle my body. I looked like a beanpole in glasses and got teased about not drinking the red punch or I’d look like a thermometer and did I need skis in the shower to keep from going down the drain and to make it worse I was depressed and stopped eating in front of people or at least I tried to. Louis made us eat together and he knew Mom had packed a lunch and he made it so I had to eat and didn’t get teased or feel ashamed. He talked to me, the geek and he listened and didn’t tell me what to do. He sometimes gave advice but it wasn’t the offhand advice that adults sometimes spew at young teens. He was a big kid to us not another adult that preached at us. He was exactly who he was and I never saw him put a front or a mask on.

I’m sure he had them especially in the years he told us about the years when he hated everything and everyone but he never had them with us.

We all have personal pantheons of people who are special in our lives. We may never admit to those people that they are special. Most of them don’t or wouldn’t accept that they are special in any way. The people who made a difference when we were kids or people who make differences in our lives now. They are the people who go about their business and don’t make fusses. They aren’t holy and they aren’t holier than thou. They love and because of that they do what they see as right and good and they usually are right about what that is. They don’t expect to be thanked and they tend to be quiet about things when they do them. They don’t blog or put it on facebook that they’ve done something and if you aren’t involved in whatever they are doing, you may never know they did it. They won’t tell you.

So some of my saints are pagan, some are Christian, most aren’t Christian but Louis is definitely is one of mine and always will be, so if I mention him a lot before the movie comes out or after, forgive me, I loved him and I honour him.