Updated: Oct 31, 2020
When I was growing up in the Catholic Church, I considered saints to be the spiritual all-stars, the annointed few that showed a state of spiritual connection way beyond the norm. But now I consider a saint to simply be someone who has experienced the transformative power of Love and then brings this awareness/energy/love right back into the messy world. These people could choose to live in a peaceful place above the maddening crowd, but instead they dive right back into the world to serve with Love.
At the end of a hike in Big Sur, California, I met a guy in his twenties named Mike who had the characteristics of an everyday saint. Meeting him was inspirational for me, and perhaps it will be for you too. Here's the story.
I was standing at the base of a towering tree with my eyes shut and my hands on the trunk when I heard Mike say, “I love redwoods too.” When his girlfriend added, “I like to hug them,” I looked at the couple and admitted, “I wanted to hug this tree, but I didn't want to look crazy!” We all laughed. When I commented about Mike's Cubs baseball cap, we discovered that we both grew up near Chicago. We stood there for over an hour and the conversation gradually evolved from details about the city to our deepest experiences.
Mike eventually shared that he began drinking and smoking pot at age ten. He described himself as a bad kid who was always getting into trouble, lying and stealing. He said that through it all- his mother loved him and believed in him, and that no matter how much he disappointed and hurt her, she never gave up on him. He went to college and got a good job in the entertainment industry. But he was still an addict, and he was especially addicted to cocaine. He described how he lied to himself, and how he would talk about how crazy his friends were to feel better about who he had become.
When he was taking mushrooms one day, he saw himself as a ten-year old and the idea came to him that it was possible to go back to who he was. He thought about how much he had hurt his mother, and felt her unwavering love. He wanted to love her back, and to become what she had envisioned for him. This awareness changed his trajectory in life. He moved to Colorado and met friends who weren’t into drugs. He loved hiking and snowboarding and being in nature with them, and he became so busy there was no time for drug use.
He then had a strong desire to become a teacher. When he gave his notice, his boss scoffed at him and said, “You’ll be back.” Mike's voice was full of indignation when he said, “He didn’t know me. He had no idea of the wild life I led, and who I wanted to become.” Choosing his own path was another turning point for Mike. Shortly afterwards he went to a job fair and approached a table that had teaching opportunities. The recruiter said that he had a position in California but it was a very rough school for kids in the housing projects. When Mike was enthusiastic about the job, the recruiter warned, “You should take a day to think about it.” Mike replied, “I don’t have to think about it. I’m in.”
He had been teaching in this inner-city school now for several years. His girlfriend said, “He’s humble, but he was just voted teacher of the year.” Mike smiled, “I spend my lunch in the classroom and not in the teacher's lounge, so they don't know all the bad stuff about me that they know about each other.” But then he began talking about the kids with behavior problems, and his eyes lit up. He said, "My classroom is full of these kids. When the other teachers don't want them, I say 'bring them to me.'"
Then he added, "When they get in trouble, they have to eat lunch with me. I have them sit across the desk from me, and in the beginning they are usually silent and angry. But if you sit with them long enough, eventually they break, and they begin to talk. Sometimes they tell me about abuse they’ve endured, and I have to report it. And they get mad. But they also feel heard and protected and eventually they understand and trust me more. The problems they are facing are so huge, and they don’t have the support that I had."
When I told Mike about my healing, which included the challenge of childhood sexual abuse, he responded with compassion and shared a story. One of the boys in his classroom was acting out in dramatic ways. After hours of discussion with his parents, and asking the question in many different ways, it was finally revealed that this ten-year-old boy had been sexually molested by his uncle throughout his childhood, and the boy was now sexually abusing his young cousins. Mike's voice was full of compassion when he said, “He’s a really good person, but he needs help. I’m just one person, and I feel so limited.” I encouraged him, "Seeing him and treating him with such kindness is a huge gift that may help him heal if not now, in the future."
These loving actions were not just something Mike did, they were a reflection of the Love and power he embodied. You could feel it in his presence. During our visit, Mike shared that before the hike he was standing at the ocean’s edge with cliffs rising up on either side and as the waves rushed in and out, it felt like the whole earth was breathing, and like it was also breathing life into him. Later he said, “I think the idea of things being right or wrong is over-rated. We are simply having experiences and we can learn through the challenges in life. I’m not religious but I am spiritual. There is something that is within us that connects us all, and it is so awesome that we can recognize it and then live from that perspective.”
It is such a blessing to meet an everyday saint! These flawed humans also sense their Love, peace and power, and they remind us who we are. They live among us. They are us.
💜≈ If you like this post, I encourage you to check out my latest book, Healing with Spirit.
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