Inspiration Information — Mother Teresa turns 100!

by aaron on August 26, 2010

“It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing.  It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.” –Mother Teresa

August 26, 1910 Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born in a small town in Albania.  19 years later, as a young novice nun, Agnes arrived to India as a missionary, and very quickly dedicated her time to working among the sick, dying and destitute.  In 1931, she took her full vows as a catholic nun, adopting the name Teresa after Thérèse de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries.  For 15 years she lived in the convent, a devout disciple of her spiritual calling.  But in 1946 she experienced the “call within the call”:  she was to leave the convent and help the poor… while living among them.

Thus was Mother Teresa born — the iconic women of charity, who’s lifelong labor of love has spread in a million ripples, inspiring multitudes around the world.  Everybody knows Mother Teresa, her name is as ubiquitous  as Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.  The very mention of her triggers sensations of kindness and hope.

Today marks Mother Teresa’s Centenary birth, a day of much celebration and praise around the world; and especially in the 610 orphanages and and schools which she built in the poorest slums in 123 countries through her Missionaries of Charity.  And while most focus on the impact Mother Teresa has had in the world, the sheer number of children she has lifted from the black well of poverty, the depth of her religious and moral devotion; the international fame of her 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, and the resulting saintly status she has achieved,… I want to focus the microscope, to take a more intimate look at the quiet spirit of a woman who gave her entire heart to nurture happiness in others.

Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.

What I find so incredibly inspiring about Mother Teresa is not the tremendous impact her actions have ignited (though these are of course great sources of inspiration), but rather the humble origins — the small intimate sacrifices of her actions.  You have to remember that before Mother Teresa became the wise, wizened old women of contemporary symbolic stature… she was just a ordinary teenage girl, who left her small town in Albania to travel to the remote, exotic world of India.  Think about that for a second.  Consider the inner strength and courage it takes to leave behind the comforts of family and home at the age of nineteen, never to see your parents again.  To then throw yourself into the dirtiest, poorest, and dangerous slums on earth, on your own as a gori– a foriegn white woman, with nothing to offer but  some food, a smile, a hug.

Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing

The miracle of Mother Teresa stems from the humility of her gestures.  She never set out to change the world, just to help the person in front of her.  And as such, she selflessly put herself always in the place of most need.  In her own words: “My mission is to care for the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” Little by little, one life at a time, she worked to spread joy and shine just a little candle flicker of light.

Even in the face of overwhelming and infinite poverty, fighting a war that can’t be won, she never gave up.  Even in the depths of a personal spiritual crisis, in the dark cellars of despair, she never stopped.  This is a woman who gave her life in service to church, to God, to the meek and the voiceless.  Who stood tall against crippling waves of loneliness.  Who offered a haven of peace (in 1946) even as violent civil war broke between Muslims and Hindus. Or stepped in at the height of the Siege of Beirut (1982– at the age of 72) to rescue 37 children trapped in a hospital between Israeli and Palestinian lines.  This is a woman who assisted radiation victims at Chernobyl, earthquake victims in Armenia, and starving orphans in Ethiopia.  Who lent her hand, person to person, and never let her beacon-light waver, even when it seemed she was all alone in the darkness.

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.

Today then, on her 100th birthday, we honor Mother Teresa not just for the impact she has made, but also the example she has set.  Inch by inch she has raised the bar of humanity to a height for which we should all aspire.  And she did it largely, amazingly, all on her own.

And for that we are eternally grateful.

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