In Catholic and some Protestant churches, November 1 is celebrated as "All Saints Day" to remember and honor not only saints of old, but also those in a congregation who have died since the previous November 1.
Although I attended church most Sundays growing up, my home did not reflect Christian values. Fortunately, I attended public school where I met Mrs. Rossi, my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. DeShong, my fifth grade teacher, and Miss Lightner, my sixth grade teacher.
This Sunday, when "All Saints Day" will be celebrated, I want to remember these three women who nurtured my faith in ways they were unaware. They died decades ago, but their influence on my life remains.
Back in the mid and late fifties, when I was in elementary school, all classes began by saying the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord's Prayer. Mrs. Rossi, my fourth grade teacher, liked to sing. Filled with a room of chatty children, she stood in front of the classroom leading us in hymns while we passed completed papers or spelling tests down the row of desks. "Come Thou Almighty King" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" were my two favorites. Perhaps she thought singing children were less distracting than talking children.
My family moved from Columbus, Ohio, to a small town west of Pittsburgh, when I was in fifth grade. Mrs. DeShong, my fifth grade teacher, and Miss Lightner, my sixth grade teacher, led the class in prayer before we went to lunch. Simone, a student in my class both years was Jewish. Once a week, she was asked to say the prayer. She prayed in Hebrew then translated in English. Simone was the first Jewish person I knew.
All three teachers helped me learn that thinking about God was not just for Sunday morning in church. Mrs. DeShong and Miss Lightner taught me about gratitude and honoring other faith traditions. Through Mrs. Rossi's love of music, I learned hymns that were not sung in my church. Each teacher provided daily links to God through prayer and music, which reminded me I was able to come to God wherever I was - even at my desk in school.
I wish I could thank these women or even their descendants for the influence each had on my life. Recent efforts to locate teacher records in each school were not productive. When I attend church on Sunday, I will honor "my three saints" by recalling their witness and realizing the impact each had, caring for me in my faith every day in ways I was not receiving at home.
Who can you honor on "All Saints Day" for influencing, directing or nurturing your walk with God?
Prayer: God, thank you for persons who witness to their faith in you and can inspire by example. Amen.