He chose as the gospel the bit in Matthew that tells us to be salt to the word and not to hide our lights.
He didn’t spend any time on the salt bit, but he talked about twenty-five minutes about the light bit. And his focus was on how light spills forth. It was an excellent talk. It was a series of funny stories, mostly, connected by his comments.
He told two stores that moved me a lot. The first was about an old man. The man’s mother had gotten “in the family way” and refused to leave town to have the “emergency appendectomy” that required nine months of recovery with relatives in a far-away town.
The son born grew up being constantly reminded that he was illegitimate and as much an outcast as his mother was. They didn’t attend church because no one wanted them in “their” church. When the boy was about eleven years old, a new minister came to one of the churches. The mother liked this man so they began to attend his church. They would arrive late and leave early so that no one would have the opportunity to “remind” them.
Then one Sunday, they didn’t escape in time. The minister, standing at the door, looked at the boy and said, “I don’t think I’ve met you before; who’s your father, son?”
The boy began to cry – even at church he had to be reminded that he didn’t have a father.
The minister, figured out the situation, having been told about the two, or by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, put his hands on the boy’s shoulders and said,
You know, the more I look at you, the more I see that you look like your father. In fact, you’re the spitting image of your father. I can see God all over your face.”
That statement irrevocably changed the boy’s life. He said that whenever he was ridiculed, he just remembered that he looked like his dad. That boy, who was “never going to amount to anything”, grew up to be a two-time governor of Tennessee and state senator.
The other story that moved me so much involved a little girl, Caroline Kennedy. As she sat in the limousine following her mother and uncles, walking down the Washington DC Avenue to St. Matthew’s Cathedral for the Requiem Mass of her father, she felt all alone. Her little brother and their nanny were in the limo, too, but they were of no comfort to her. But walking beside the door was a secret service agent whom Caroline really liked. She rolled down the window and put her hand out. The agent, Robert W. Foster, reached over and took her hand. He held it all the way down the avenue to the church.
It was against FBI/CIA policy that mandated an agent’s hands must be “free” at all times. But Mr. Foster, who was severely reprimanded but not fired, said at that moment, holding that little hand reaching out to him was more important than anything else. (Mr. Foster died 20 June 2008.)
The speaker concluded that story and his talk with these words, “it is in the little things that our light shines – a kind word to someone in pain; holding the hand of someone who needs their hand held. That’s when our light shines—spills out brightest—It’s not the big things, it’s the little things.”
And to that, I can add “amen.”