Saints in all sizes

I am constantly aware of how “saints” of all shapes and sizes enter my life. There’s rarely a day that passes that some kindness or lesson isn’t visited upon me. It’s marvelous and humbling.

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Today, I had to mail a package at the post office. When I got there there were 25 people in line and only one person at the service counter. Another employee who could only sell regular stamps came out to help, but that only got the line down to 20 people–each with a unique need–packages to be sent abroad, registered letters, etc.

The person in line ahead of me was a business man with a big box of manila envelopes and small packages. After 20 minutes, he was finally at the counter and when he unpacked his box, there must have been 50 or 60 pieces of mail that each had to be treated individually.A very long wait, and the line was now out the door.

My back was starting to ache and I was beginning to regret having joined the line in the first place, when a small elderly lady behind me who only had to buy a 22 cent stamp for one of her two envelopes showed me the tiniest insect that was crawling across one of the envelopes. “Isn’t that miraculous,” she whispered, “that an insect can be that small.”

For the next 15 minutes we had a wonderful conversation about gardening, cooking, sewing, children, husbands, work and hobbies, difficult times, happy times, and the minutes just slid by. I learned more about her life in that short time than I know about some of my friends. Her family lost their house and cars and all their possessions in a tornado here in the 80s. In the late 90s, she was hit by a drunk driver and told she would probably never walk again. Her mother sewed all her clothing until she was 13, when she got her first dress from a store. Her son makes waterproof wilderness camping equipment like packs and tents. Her husband won a national woodcarving contest. She mended shoes, then ran a catering business handling 50-60 big weddings a year. She was so proud that after two months the linen rental company she used no longer counted all the linens she rented because they knew she was honest. She and her family went on a camping trip from the Twin Cities to Alaska when she was younger and it was so magical she’d felt like she never wanted it to end. She mentioned god twice.

I know she started the conversation to ease tension, everyone’s growing impatience and my sigh at seeing the fellow’s 50 packages. When I finally got to the counter I was so delighted from talking with her that I just wanted to share that delight with the beleaguered woman all alone handling all these people’s needs. That’s the way kindness works–when you receive it it makes you want to share it with everyone.

I used to think these instances were small things. But now I think they’re some of the most important happenings in my life–seeing the infinite ways people come up with to help others.

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