A haze of white flakes pelted my face with the temperature in the teens on Monday morning. Dog and I leaned in against the wind as March roared like a lion with forty mph wind gusts. By mid-morning I could see sun and blue trying to peel away the shroud of gray. They didn’t succeed. If the app on my phone is correct, April will be entering like a lion and, hopefully, exiting like a lamb.
This past weekend the life of an ordinary saint I knew entered into the ether but the impact of her gifts and service will ripple outward for generations to come. Many Genevan’s knew Joanne Wisor as the former mayor, the second woman to serve the city in that capacity (1996-1999). I knew her as a member and leader of my church community and a person with great personal strength and faith. But this is not a eulogy.
Joanne’s passing and this year’s struggle to open the gateway to Spring evokes in me thoughts of ordinary saints and the extraordinary resurrections imbued in April’s green renewal. They are connected, of course, just as every one of our bodies holds the residue of actual star dust. Across billions of light-years the connections between stars and planets and quasars with Earth and the biological lives scattered across it, mostly go unnoticed by those of us who don’t study such things. Likewise, the connection between our ordinary lives and how we influence and benefit one another, goes unnoticed by us too.
I cannot tell you exactly how the events and activities of Joanne’s life have changed the world or anyone in it, but I guarantee you she did. I hesitate to sound like the angel in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” but it is true that we never know how our actions influence others around us. Seemingly insignificant encounters or conversations can in fact, change the trajectory of lives. Joanne had a big life, probably bigger than she would have contemplated, because she served the interests of so many institutions and organizations, not to mention cared for and served so many individuals. Just from the scale of the life she lived I am guessing the reverberation was greater than for many of us. But all of us, every single one of us, can be sure our lives have and are influencing the course of history — one life at a time.
That is true for negative impact as well. When we act with rapacious self-interest because we believe it is a dog-eat-dog world and better to not get eaten, we help to create that world. When we act as if it is a blue and red world and the only people worth helping or listening to are our color, we help to make that world. When we consume with abandon and give no thought to our footprint on the environment, we hasten a more volatile world.
When the world loses an ordinary saint who made many people better, we grieve twice: for the one we loved and for the world they made better. I hope you will join me in thinking about what kind of impact we are having, seen or unseen, on the world around us.