One of the best parts of living in New York City is the option to get from one place to another on foot. Even if only for part of our travels, walking is embedded in how we negotiate our days. And the more we walk, the better we get at all the little shortcuts at streetcorners. We start to anticipate when the lights will change and move forward accordingly. And, if no cars are coming toward us and all is clear, we might cross the street even if the red hand is still solidly telling us to stay put.
A while back I was walking with a friend who did not grow up in the United States. We were on our way to a museum, navigating sizeable crowds on the sidewalks. In the interest of saving time—and without really thinking about what I was doing—I looked to see that no cars were coming and then stepped off the curb to cross against the light.
My friend grabbed my arm to stop me. “But we’re good!” I said. “Oh no,” she responded. “Where I’m from we never ever do that.” At first I thought she was referring to some cultural predilection for attention to rules, but she went on: “It may be fine and perfectly safe to cross here, but we don’t know who is watching when we do so. It may be a child. And if that child sees adults with no regard for the signals to stop and go, they might ignore those signals at the wrong time, run into traffic, and get hurt.”
This made perfect sense, of course. Still, I confess that I was taken aback by the default “other-centeredness” in her words. It was beautiful. And I was remembering that experience this week, as we commemorated All Saints Day on Tuesday and prepared to celebrate the saints this Sunday in church. Although expressed in an endless variety of ways, saints all have a similar focus. Saints don’t start with self-interest. They love God, first and foremost, and that love manifests in orienting toward what is most life-giving for others.
All Saints Day invites us into intentional gratitude for all who have embodied this way of moving through God’s world. Please join us this Sunday as we give thanks for the witness of the saints and pray for strength and courage to live according to their example.