Many years ago I heard a woman discuss this work [of kindness]. She visited a Catholic church in downtown Miami, Florida, in 1979.
The small sanctuary overflowed with people. I was surprised. The event wasn't publicized. I happened to hear of the noon-hour presentation through a friend. I was living only a few blocks from the church. I showed up a few minutes early in hopes of a front-row seat.
I should have arrived two hours early. People packed every pew and aisle. Some sat in windowsills. I found a spot against the back wall and waited. I don't know if the air-conditioning was broken or nonexistent, but the windows were open, and the south coast air was stuffy. The audience was chatty and restless. Yet when she entered the room, all stirring stopped.
No music. No long introduction. No fanfare from any public officials. No entourage. Just three, maybe four, younger versions of herself, the local priest, and her.
The father issued a brief word of welcome and told a joke about placing a milk crate behind the lectern so we could see his guest. He wasn't kidding. He positioned it, and she stepped up, and those blue eyes looked out at us. What a face. Vertical lines chiseled around her mouth. Her nose, larger than most women would prefer. Thin lips, as if drawn with a pencil, and a smile naked of pretense.
She wore her characteristic white Indian sari with a blue border that represented the Missionaries of Charity, the order she had founded in 1949. Her sixty-nine years had bent her already small frame. But there was nothing small about Mother Teresa’s presence.
“Give me your unborn children,” she offered. (Opening words or just the ones I remember most? I don't know.) “Don't abort them. If you cannot raise them, I will. They are precious to God.”
Who would have ever pegged this slight Albanian woman as a change agent? Born in a cauldron of ethnic strife, the Balkans. Shy and introverted as a child. Of fragile health. One of three children. Daughter of a generous but unremarkable businessman. Yet somewhere along her journey, she became convinced that Jesus walked in the “distressing disguise of the poor,” and she set out to love him by loving them.
In 1989 she told a reporter that her Missionaries had picked up around fifty-four thousand people on the streets of Calcutta and that twenty-three thousand or so had died in their care.
I wonder if God creates people like Mother Teresa so he can prove his point: “See, you can do something today that will outlive your life.”
Max Lucado, Outlive Your Life Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010, 170-172.
When Max Lucado Forgot the Bread, SFS, 8 October 2010.
Finding Father Benjamin: A Fable by Max Lucado, SFS, 5 October 2010.
Becoming More Ourselves, SFS, 16 January 2007.
Learning to Listen, SFS, 10 September 2006.
Geoff Pound’s new book on gratitude is described at this link: Talk About Thanksgiving.
Image: I wonder if God creates people like Mother Teresa so he can prove his point: “See, you can do something today that will outlive your life.”