I Once Knew a Saint


This post is a point of personal privilege.

I once knew a saint. Her name was Barbara. Actual name this time. Barbara was taken from us, way too early, due to a fast-acting cancer. A decade or so before that unfortunate development, Barbara found herself situated in life such that she could spend all her waking hours going about doing good. And that is exactly what she chose to do.

Among her many saintly projects was her “adoption” of a large group of refugees in our city, who were Vietnamese children of American servicemen of various colors. They all came to the memorial service, which ranks among my most moving life experiences. Some of the Vietnamese children, now grown to young adulthood, were Catholics, and they spoke of their desire to see Barbara again in heaven. Others were Buddhists, who prayed to be with her again in their next reincarnation.

Barbara held herself to a high standard. Probably the thing that most embarrassed her was the occasion when she was working with young children in the inner city. They were coloring together when Barbara, unthinkingly, asked one of the kids to “pass the flesh-colored crayon.”  When she realized what she had just said, she was mortified. It never stopped bothering her.

Somewhere—in the next reincarnation or whatever—Barbara is looking with approval on the news that Crayola Unveils New Inclusive Skin Tone Crayons: The “Colors of the World” line aims to promote representation and acceptance.

Barbara, this song is for you.