"Saint" is a word that generally has religious overtones. For example, I used to belong to an organization, Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), that was part of the Sant Mat movement, which means "teaching of saints."
The RSSB saints were gurus who supposedly were God in Human Form, something I now deeply doubt. The Catholic church has a more expansive view of saints:
The saints of the church are a diverse group of people with varied and interesting stories. Their ranks include martyrs, kings and queens, missionaries, widows, theologians, parents, nuns and priests, and “everyday people” who dedicated their lives to the loving pursuit of God.
Religious and nonreligious people alike have found inspiration from their lives, particularly in the stories of saints who devoted themselves in service to the poor, sick, and disenfranchised, such as St. Mother Teresa and St. Vincent de Paul, among others.
Many of the saints who were persecuted for their faith, such as St. Stephen and St. Perpetua, showed remarkable forgiveness and patiently suffered through their trials and tortures. Some are revered for their simplicity and humility, including St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Several, notably St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, were writers and thinkers who shaped Western thought for centuries.
Then there's the Urban Dictionary definition, my favorite.
I like this because it doesn't have any sort of religious connotation. Indeed, to me the most impressive saints are, as this definition says, ordinary people who put others' needs before their own. Sure, not always, as this doesn't seem to be possible. But frequently.
That opens the door to sainthood for lots of people, probably most people. Which is as it should be. Genuine saints, not the fake saints revered by religions disconnected from reality by supernatural B.S., are usually little known, though greatly appreciated by those they serve.
Caregivers to those afflicted by dementia. Teachers who are overworked and underpaid. Sanitation workers. Advocates for the homeless. Immigrants who do the tough jobs Americans dislike, then send much of their money to relatives in their native country. So many others.
Sainthood isn't an either-or proposition. It's a sliding scale. Everybody possesses the capacity of acting in a saintly fashion. Some just are able to be compassionate and self-sacrificing to a greater degree than others.
I'm definitely average when it comes to saintliness. There's nothing special about me in this regard.
But last Friday I had an appointment with the nurse practitioner who serves as my primary care provider. We talked about how to handle the sciatica in my right leg, which has gotten much more painful the past few months.
Since this was my first visit with the nurse practitioner after my doctor left the clinic and I needed a new provider, I told her about how the sciatica began four years ago, in early 2020. In the beginning it was super painful. Nothing could help the pain appreciably. The pain would laugh at the couple of Tylenol pills I'd take.
I'd cry out loud with the pain, and I'm normally not big on crying. I was determined to keep on doing what needed done around our non-easy-care house on ten rural acres. Back then we had a walk-behind mower. I'd mow the grass with tears streaming down my cheeks, the pain would be so bad. I got the grass cut, though.
Every day I'd walk our dog in the late afternoon, just as I'd done before the sciatica started. Some days I'd wonder if I could make the mile-and-a-half loop on roads in our neighborhood, which is quite hilly. Just as with the mowing, I'd hold the dog's leash while I cried out in pain, one step at a time. I'd want to quit and go home, but I never did.
In no way is what I did exceptionally saintly. I mention it just to give a personal example of how people can push through extreme discomfort because they want to feel useful and do something that benefits others. In my case, a wife and dog.
Given my substantial ego, I'm proud of many things that I've done in my 75 years of living. However, doing household duties while I was racked with severe pain is something that especially pleases me, when I remember it.
(That said, I'm still looking for ways to relieve my sciatica, since I'd prefer to be of service to others in ways that don't involve a lot of pain, even if that reduces my saintly rating.)