September 5, 2017 marks the 20th anniversary since the death of Mother Teresa, one of the most iconic figures of the 20th Century. It is hard to wrap the mind around the fact that two decades have actually elapsed since her passing, and not just for those who were around at the time. Many, including the young, are aware of her humanitarian contribution to society.
The Nobel laureate, who was canonized officially as a saint in September 2016, has barely missed on the headlines 20 years after her death.
Whether it be for the right reasons – like how she helped the poorest of the poor of this world, or controversial ones – like how she struggled with her faith as revealed from writings released years after her death or how she tried to further her own ends, Mother Teresa has still found a way to be close to us even in death.
How true that quote from her book must ring today…
‘If I ever become a Saint – I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’ I will continually be absent from Heaven – to light the light of those in darkness on earth.’ ~ Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light
Lessons from a Saint
As we reflect on her life, death and elevation to sainthood, there are lessons aplenty we can learn from the Nun of Kolkata who still serves as a beacon of light not just to the Mother’s sisters, or the Missionaries of Charity as a whole, but to the rest of humanity as well.
Like the value of living a simple life not obsessed with material wealth. Or the importance of remaining steadfast in our faith even in the midst of challenges which are very much part and parcel of life.
Or how we should be treating each other, and more so those most in need. And doing the small, simple, ordinary things in life that make a world of difference in the lives of others.
Not because we want recognition for it. Not because we want a pat on the back. Not because we seek the instant, personal gratification that comes from gaining more social media followers. But because we are all of this world, and that’s what humanity is all about.
‘Because that’s what kindness is. It’s not doing something for someone else because they can’t, but because you can.’ ~ Andrew Iskander
Life of Service
Everywhere you go in this world, there is never a shortage of people in dire need for help.
Problem is, the world has become so individualistic that we have grown accustomed to focusing on ourselves and our loved ones to the exclusion of fellow human beings. We tend towards selfishness rather than giving. On helping ourselves while shutting off people who could use our help. I am not judging or saying we are all like that, but we are human and inclined to fall into this pitfall if we are not careful.
However, if there is anything Mother Teresa and her sisters have taught us, it is that we can always change that view.
The Mother’s sisters continue to carry her mantle by taking care of the poor and people suffering from all kinds of diseases – tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, leprosy you name it. The Missionaries of Charity continue to run orphanages, residences for homeless mothers, shelters for women, teaching or providing guidance and counseling to kids and their families, administering soup kitchens, schools, and doing much more in all corners of the world.
The tend to the sick, cleaning up vomit, body waste, blood, changing adult diapers and so on and so forth.
It is thankless work. And it can be tiring.
Of course, it would be naïve and impractical to think we can all serve this way.
But helping the needy need not be overwhelming.
Our contributions need not move mountains, you see. Or melt the polar ice caps. Or drain the oceans.
‘While it may seem small, the ripple effects of small things is extraordinary.’ ~ Matt Bevin
Little Acts of Kindness
There are simple, practical ways anyone of us can assist the needy. And while assistance may mostly sound like financial-wise, it doesn’t always have to be in the form of direct cash donations.
It could be buying food for children on the street, or donating what you don’t need to a homeless shelter. It could be donating things from your attic to charity. Caring for patients, young and old. Calling a charity to volunteer. Matter of fact, ring the doorbell on any of the Missionaries of Charity’s houses and within no time, you will find yourself in an apron, and doing dishes.
It could also mean helping victims of human trafficking. Of rape. Of natural calamities.
There is no shortage of ways to be charitable in this world. Look at the options around you. It might be as simple as buying a coffee for that person on the street begging for change. Or helping beings who we may often forget are suffering. Like orphans. We can always do something small for them, whether it is extending our love, showing acts of compassion, or providing some sort of benefit to them.
Consider organisations geared towards alleviating the suffering of the poor, whether locally or internationally. But while you are at it, it is worth remembering that not all organisations are the same.
You probably have heard those scare stories about donations going to waste due to poor planning and embezzlement of funds. It is not right to dig our heads in the sand and pretend it is not happening. Before donating to charity, it never hurts to do your homework first to be assured that your donation will be put to good use, going towards helping those people it really ought to be helping.
Giving to the needy is a noble endeavour, but in truth, it is not always convenient. Because it means going out of your way. Out of your regular routine, making time sacrifices. Out of your comfort zone, interacting with poor people; homeless people; sick people. Making financial sacrifices that are of no direct benefit to you.
This is why many people deem it a hard ask.
That is the whole essence of it, though. To make a personal sacrifice even if it is not easy, because it will never always be.
But we can attune our mind to do something small for those people who could use our support. A small act of compassion can become a significant action to help others. And if we do it together in our own small ways, wherever we are in this world, it can turn into something much bigger. And then we can share in the merit together.
Because the hard truth is that the majority of people around the globe live impoverished lives. And no matter how we seem to be advancing as a world, we really cannot claim to while the majority still lags behind, living below the poverty level.
‘We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.’ ~ Mother Teresa
Jillian Haslam Bio
Jillian is a qualified speaking coach with distinction, and has had a 20 year career in banking, including working with executives at board level. Barclays, Bank of America, and the Royal Bank of Scotland are some of the names on her impressive list of clients.
Born and raised in abject poverty in Calcutta – Jillian is a truly inspirational and professional keynote speaker. She uses her experience and motivational stories to inspire others to face their fears. With her motivational words and her warmth, she engages and empathises with you helping you to wake up, inspire you to do better and be more confident.
Aside from being a successful businesswoman, philanthropist, and conference speaker, she is a published author “Indian.English”. An inspirational story about her life, of finding the road to success, and how she utilises her wisdom and vision to help others.