In Celebration of the Communion of Saints
By April McQueen
Our ancestors made our lives possible. We should always celebrate this communion of saints that reaches from those family members we never knew, to the present patriarchs and matriarchs that share their wisdom, whether asked for or not. Our ancestors are the strength on whose shoulders we stand. I imagine them in their full celestial glory…spiritually with us now although separate in their individual struggles for us then: with their bodies and souls, with as many stories as teeth and bones.
Strong women loved hardworking men and birthed a new story of creation: hope.
They broke their backs to have the basics. They never took it for granted when they had enough. They were especially grateful when abundance came and graced their table. They were working poor when for them poverty kept them working for a sorry, inconsistent something that was less than enough even if it meant dying a little each day: dying to equal protection; to due process; to the pressures of being the first; and to compromising short-term socio-economic discomfort for long-term dreams of something better. They sacrificed for a legacy they would never see. They had hope that one day it would come if they stayed the course and stayed faithful.
The placement of our aspirations rested on their multi-generational prayers for us, those who were yet to come; yet to be; yet to dream. If time was on loan, they didn’t have sufficient credit. And yet they made a way for us to have enough for those little extras that made all the difference. They also handled the occasional emergency. However, they never stopped providing for us beyond what they could see and touch, if not have.
(Peace and quiet and reflective solitude were luxury items. But they never were too busy to pray.)
Having less than didn’t mean that they gave up working for much more. They tried harder believing that work would lend its dignity to their life even if they died trying. 24 hours a day and 7 days a week for 365 days a year they measured their worth in modest means and humble haves. Society didn’t give them an equal value. They were seen as the invisible nobodies who had not. Their bosses did not regard them with respect and controlled their fate, pushed them down, wore them out, and made sure they remained lower and less than them. Nevertheless, the bosses kept them as subservient and underappreciated; as a worthless, intolerable other. The bosses made sure that our ancestors who worked for them knew the bosses were somebodies and our ancestors remained nobodies.
But they got up and went out and faced the day. They did honest work for a wage that they didn’t negotiate. They accepted living on what was less than enough, never complaining, knowing that their concerns were less than what was important: continuing despite all of the -isms that worked to force them down. They went along and trusted that the Lord would work it out. They kept on going to earn, working to leave a legacy built on these hopes and they laid its foundation. Generations that followed would not have it as hard (this was their prayer); those that followed would go farther and suffer less (this was their dream).