Influence, Touching and Affecting

Someone I last saw over 30 years ago has written me. She knew me and my wife and our little son back when I was in seminary. She wrote me about us having her and some other people to dinner in our apartment. She remembered Susan as “a very gentle person. She told me about her writing on several occasions. I always admired her mothering skills with Michael.”
    The occasion of her writing me, now, is her reading a book I wrote. Her own situation of caregiving for a spouse had parallels with mine. She was grateful for the book and wanted me to know. I am in turn very grateful to her for writing.
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    You write a book, you preach a sermon, you teach a class — and you never know the influence you have, how much you may have touched people or affected the way they go about their lives. I am not a great or widely read author. (When Bloomsbury took over T & T Clark, who published two academic books of mine, I noted that they were also the publishers of J. K. Rowling, the inventor of Harry Potter. “Between us we sell millions of copies.”) But even with such modest circulation as Losing Susan has had, I hear from readers, often strangers. It’s like God is lifting up the curtain just a wee bit to suggest the vastness of our connections one with another.
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    And you who read this: it’s true of you too. I speak of writing, teaching, and preaching only because those are things I have done. You have your own activities in the world. Whatever they are, they are connections, points where you influence, touch, affect others. They may be special to your profession. Or they may be entirely quotidian. They are probably some of both, and you are aware of only a tiny fraction of them.
    “By virtue of his Incarnation,” the fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote, “the Son of God has united himself in some way with every human being.” Our human nature is interconnected but also seriously damaged by sin. Yet Jesus, who truly represents the human race to God, offers, through his overcoming of sin, the hope and the means of reconciliation, the restoration ofcommunio, of connections.
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    In The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis sees a grand procession coming down from high heaven to the low place where he is. It is altogether joyous, with singing and much praise, angels strewing flowers, children dancing, all leading a radiant, almost blindingly beautiful woman. Lewis wonders if it might be Saint Mary. His companion laughs heartily. No, he says, this is “someone ye’ll never have heard of,” Sarah Smith of Golders Green! She was an ordinary person in life. (No books, no sermons, no classes!) But every child who came to her door was loved. Everyone who happened to meet her was blessed in simple ways. She loved God and she touched all those whom she met.
    Is Susan like Sarah Smith, I sometimes wonder. Am I? Are you?
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    Out & About. This Sunday, November 12, I am to preach at St. Peter’s in McKinney at the 9 and 11 a.m. Eucharists. At 10:10, I’ll be speaking about some of the themes of Losing Susan.

The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."