I know a woman whom others regard as a saint without her having to make any effort for this to be the case. Let me clarify something: she does make efforts, in the same way as we all do. She never swears or speeds up with the car, volunteers at a food bank on Saturday mornings, and, if you ask, she will always have a minute for you. Nothing extraordinary, you might think – but enough to earn her sainthood. “She is a gift to us all,” people say with reverence whenever her name is mentioned. And, when she offers or agrees to help and encloses one of her half-smiles with her offer, people’s faces transform: gaze humble, smile incredulous as they realize it’s their long-awaited turn to be at the receiving end of one of her effortless miracles.
She intrigued me, so I observed her. After three months, I unraveled her secret. Before she opens her mouth to say yes, the slightest sense of inconvenience gleams in her black eyes, an ever-so-slight crack ascending along her forehead, minute wrinkles taking over the tanned flesh around her mouth. What she’s about to do for us, we sense, inconveniences her just by the right amount – enough that it’s a sacrifice, because of a saint we always expect sacrifices, but not so much that negates the joy she takes in serving others. Because of a saint we expect this kind of joy too. Only of a saint.
The discovery has taken away the mystery, and with the mystery went some admiration. Tthis gives me some unease – because she is a fine human being and makes other people’s lives better. She is not to be faulted for how others interpret her facial expressions.