Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Reading Mother Teresa--XVIII
There's something so elemental about Mother Teresa's success that when you witness it, you're shocked at its essential simplicity. "Every Sunday I visit the poor in Calcutta's slums," she wrote in letter. "I cannot help them because I do not have anything, but I go to give them joy."
Ambassador of Joy.
Because she had nothing in her pockets and nothing in her pocketbook, she didn't have to refuse beggars. Quite simply, she had nothing to give them. Except joy.
Of course, you can't reverse malnutrition with a smile or fight disease with happiness. Neither can you deliver people from hapless poverty by way of a winning personality. Great cheerleaders don't win ball games.
Or do they?
What Mother Teresa brought to the poorest of the poor, and gave away freely, was just as essential for life: she brought them joy--joy that is almost certainly a synonym for love. In the same letter, she tells the story of a mother whose family suffered immensely, but a woman who "did not utter even a word of complaint about her poverty," a woman who begged Mother Teresa to return: "Oh, Ma, come again. Your smile brought sun into this house."
Mother Teresa brought that family the sun.
I don't have neighbors so deeply impoverished. I don't know anyone who doesn't know from whence his or her next meal will come. Those sad children with extended bellies--you've seen them in a ton of photographs--live somewhere in another world. I'm a long ways from Sudan, around the world from Calcutta.
But then, I suppose, darkness has a thousand faces.
And I can, just as nimbly as she did, lug in the sun.