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Living the Vintage Years: Will anyone call us a saint?

Even though the movie was released in 2014, I first watched “St. Vincent,” a drama-comedy, recently.

Observing how a young boy was able to see the goodness in his neighbor, a hard-living, hard-drinking Vietnam War veteran whom other folks considered a hopeless loser, was uplifting.

When a Catholic school assignment required students to choose someone saintly in their lives who inspires them, this boy chose his hedonistic neighbor instead of his parents or teachers. The child saw through the hard-core veneer of his neighbor and found the kindness and patience that lurked below the surface of the man’s gruff exterior.

That movie got me thinking about the earthly saints in my life. Most likely, all of us can think of a few such people who have or had a positive influence on our lives and made us better.

To qualify for that role, at least in my life, an individual would possess certain characteristics, such as kindness and devotion, and would be exceptionally good and virtuous. My earthly saints would walk the walk, so to speak, not just talk the talk, and would dedicate their lives to uplifting others.

Immediately such a person came to mind. He truly practiced what he preached.

Ten years ago, when my husband and I were traveling along Pennsylvania’s Route 6, we could find no vacancy at any hotel or motel in the area. A man delivering newspapers to the lobby of the last motel we tried overheard us talking about sleeping in our car that night. To our surprise, he invited us to stay at his nearby home. He trusted us and we trusted him, although we were strangers.

As we got to know his lovely family that evening, I felt sure the man was meant to find us.

He was an itinerant minister who delivered newspapers to businesses to make ends meet. His bundle of papers had been dropped off an hour late that night, so normally he would have been at that motel an hour earlier and would have missed us.

But things happen for a reason. He did not believe in coincidence - and neither do I.

He said his mission in life is to bring word of the Lord’s salvation to as many folks as he can, including prisoners. He strives daily to emulate the life of Jesus.

This earthly saint practices what he preaches, and I feel blessed he touched our lives.

Several other people who greatly influenced lives by their example would meet my criteria for earthly saint, if I were asked, as the students in the movie were, to nominate someone and explain why.

My maternal grandmother was the most accepting and patient person I’ve known. Despite many tragedies in her life, including the loss of several children to war, accident and cancer, she never felt sorry for herself. She offered encouragement and guidance and had nothing negative to say about anyone, a rare trait I truthfully cannot say I inherited. (I’ll keep trying).

The positive, caring influence of a special elementary school teacher, my great-aunt, led a shy immigrant girl, who spoke no English, to become a teacher herself. My aunt’s compassion and patience many years ago allowed that child to blossom and to reach her potential, and she became a woman who now is paying it forward by helping other immigrant children find their way.

My favorite journalism professor was an earthly saint who saw the good in everyone. She tutored Korean and Chinese families who moved into her neighborhood, helping the youngsters with school work and helping the parents get jobs and necessary documents. She also went door to door in her block, advocating for a Black family who moved next door and were facing discrimination from some neighbors. She had phenomenal energy and zeal for helping others and spent as many hours volunteering as she did teaching at the university.

Would anyone think of us if asked to name an earthly saint? How do we influence the lives of others? What is our contribution?

Someday we will be gone. What permanent mark will we leave on this earth? Will we be forgotten?

Whether we are remembered long after our death may depend on whether we are memorable in this life.