I doubt it would surprise anyone to know that I once dressed as a devil for Halloween. I was three or four years old, I think, and there’s photographic evidence of me walking down the street in my little red costume, swinging my tail. One of my brothers was a bat that year and the other was a clown. It was the sixties.
Things have changed a bit. There may be a few devils this year, but I doubt they’ll look like my amazing made-by-my-mom costume. There probably won’t be as many bats as Batmans and, hopefully, you won’t see many of the current style of scary clown, though I see the demand for Donald Trump costumes is “yuge,” and that ought to be enough to scare anybody. Among my grandkids, for example, is Spiderman, Cookie Monster, somebody named Skye and, my personal favourite, a garbage can. Elliott’s pretty clever: I assume that he’s anticipating where some of his candy might end up.
There might well be some zombies and demons, some arch villains and some Marvel and DC heroes, some fire fighters, paramedics, police and soldiers in camouflage, there might even be a nun or two. Villains and heroes, good and bad, funny and fearful. Whoever or whatever, we want our costume to be recognizable, but not necessarily as us.
That’s in the pagan origins of Halloween. It’s tied to the old celtic festival of Samhain - and various other ancient pagan festivals - when people believed that the boundary between this and the “otherworld” was thin. Spirits, harmless and harmful, were able to pass through, and families honoured their ancestors and warded off past enemies and evil spirits. That’s the origin of wearing masks and costumes, to hide one’s identity from the harmful spirits.
But it’s also All Hallow’s Eve, the night before All Hallows Day or, as we know it now, All Saints Day. That’s the day the church celebrates “saints,” those people that have been historically held up as examples of living well as a follower of Jesus, of living as Jesus taught us to live.
It would be great to see some saints out at Halloween. Might remind us to look for them the other 364 days of the year.
In the spirit (pun intended) and fun of All Hallow’s Eve, don’t lose sight of the day after. More importantly, don’t let your sight rest solely on the historic saints of the past. Look around you. I bet you know a few saints. Real, living, breathing saints. Of course you do. Saints don’t have to be long dead, dusty statues in an old church to have meaning in our lives. Saints live everyday the love and grace that Jesus lived.
That might be a firefighter, a nurse, a doctor, a police officer, a veteran, a teacher, a social worker or any number of obvious examples that might impact our lives in a big way. But don’t miss the ordinary, everyday saints, too. How about those people who volunteer to deliver Meals on Wheels or support our kids with afterschool programs or coach sports or direct theatre or volunteer at the Thrift Shop or give to the Food Bank or donate winter coats and other clothing to BDSS?
And then there’s a saint in the moment, isn’t there? How about that person who drops by for coffee just when you need it? Or the person who shovelled your walk or took care of your kids or helped walk your dog or get your groceries when you couldn’t?
The list is endless. And maybe there doesn’t need to be a list, maybe there just needs to be our awareness and our recognition of when we’re meeting a saint, not just to offer our thanks, but to be inspired to offer that same “saintliness” to others.
Or maybe there does need to be a list. Bashaw United Church calls it Angels Among Us, a challenge to the community to recognize at least 100 random “acts of angels” in 40 days, beginning November 1. You can “report an angel sighting” through Facebook and Instagram or using cards available at the church and around town. We post those on stakes on the front lawn of the church. Last year there were over 100 angels. The goal is to make us more aware of the kindness, care and love that ordinary people show ordinary people everyday and to inspire even more. Be a part of it, here or wherever you live.
Angels Among Us can easily be saints. It can easily be you. Everyday.