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  • Nobody Cannot Be Saints
  • Brian Doyle (bio)

Some weeks ago I received a letter from a girl, age eleven, in Korea. She lives by the sea. At her school there is a shelf with books published in the languages of English, she wrote me, and one day she lifted one of those books up and away from its shelf companions, perhaps struck by the bright golden spine, and she read it in two days, and then sat down to compose an electric letter to the author, whose electric address, as she noted, was in the back of the book, good thing for that!

Dear Mister, she wrote, your book gave me such wise lessons. I learned new things about saints and, also, how to love. I learned to bend our hours into acts of love, to love not only sweet friends and family but slimy enemies and fatuous fanatics. Well, honestly, I used to love only my dearest people, such as friends and family. But, how about my enemies? I used to be hostile to them. I just acted mean to them, not even thinking about how they would feel. But now I truly recognize that saints are here and saints are us. We, the people, used to be stupid, looking for saints there when they are living right here. But saints are us. Nobody cannot be saints. I now realize that. Thank you for writing fabulous. Your book is the best one I have read so far.

Of course I wrote back. What sort of man would not write back? I wrote back at length. I wrote about joy and amazement. I wrote about grace under duress. I wondered what the other books on that shelf by the sea in Korea might be. I wondered what her city smelled like early in the morning in those last few moments before the sun rose over the lip of the sea. I wondered what fish were in that sea. I wrote about the way it seemed to me that the most saintly and amazingly rivetingly holy people I ever met were all liable to laughter and had egos so tiny you couldn’t find them with the most powerful microscopes. I wondered what other books she was reading. I wondered how my book had found its way from the snowy farmlands where it was published to a shelf of books in the language of English in a city in Korea.

She wrote back right quick: thank you very much for giving me your response! I was full of excitement to open your electric-mail! I love your phrases! I will keep them in my mind! I want to read your books more. Are there more books that you wrote? I feel warm from your letter. [End Page 40]

Of course I wrote back. What sort of man would not write back? I wrote back at length. I wrote about the subtle pleasure of firing a torrent of words and stories into the air and having them land in a heart by the sea on the other side of the world. I wrote about how stories matter way more than we understand, and stories are prayers of terrific power, and stories are food, and how we are actually walking stories, we are collections of stories, we are vast houses in which stories come and go, and if we don’t listen for them, and savor them, and carry them in our pockets, and share them, then we have nothing, for stories are how we live, and stories are compasses and lodestars, for example the mysterious stories of the thin Jewish man who walked around telling stories a very long time ago, but how amazing that His stories still persist, still unsettle, still ripple and riffle and ruffle hearts, a most astonishing and portentous state of affairs.

Thank you very much, sir, came her immediate reply. We would like to read all of your books. We would like to read all the other best books about how there are saints all around us. How do you know this? One of us wants to know.

I have met saints, I replied. I have seen...


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pp. 40-41
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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