Thursday was St. Teresa of Calcutta’s feast day. I meant to get this out then, but I got busy due to changed plans and visiting family! Everyone loves Mother Teresa, so I figured I’d still share how I’ve been inspired by her lately. St Teresa of Calcutta was, and really still is, such an example of giving unlimited love, doing everything you can in the world, and listening to God’s plan. However, looking at her life can also be a little overwhelming- she was such a brave, devout, and busy woman. She gave and gave and gave and did soooo many great things. But yet, the lessons that she taught those around her really focused on how her actions were really just a collection of small doings. She shared how we too can love as she did. We don’t all have to go to the slums of Calcutta or even the slums of our own cities to make the world a better place. She said, instead, that we need to start at home, performing one act of love at a time.
“Spread love everywhere you go; first of all in your house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”
Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with all of the ways that I could go out and help others. Our world can be a pretty dark and depressing place with so many people hurting, so many issues to fight on, and so much that could be done. It’s hard to keep up with the latest tragedy, to read the news right now without falling into despair or, worse, being so numb that we don’t feel anything anymore. I’m someone who likes to be able to do something, and especially with two little people in tow right now, I feel like there’s just not much that I can legitimately go out and do. This has been really hard for me, and I often feel like I’m not doing my part to make the world a better place.
But Mother Teresa had a different idea of how we can make the world a better place. She believed that we start with the people God put in front of us first. That means that I must start by loving my family, especially my kiddos and my husband, as best as I can. In this, I am doing the work that God has called me to do. Mother Teresa often talked about the poverty of being uncared for, of feeling lonely and unloved. I’m sure we can all look around us and find at least one person in our life who is struggling with these feelings. By reaching out and doing what we can to make them feel loved and noticed, we are taking small steps in changing the world for the better. Even this can seem hard at times, though, which brings us to another famous quote by Mama T.
“I don’t do great things. I do small things with great love.”
I had this quote on my graduation cap- “do small things with great love” – and I try to live by it. It truly is the small things that add up to the big things. Each small action I do in love for those around me adds to the culture of love in my life and in the lives of those around me. In starting with my children, I’m able to build a foundation for them in which they know they are loved and can thrive. Each ouchie kissed, each book read, each extra snuggle adds up to the great love that they can flourish out of. The same goes for my husband. Every time I clean up dinner without complaining, recognize his needs before mine, or let him rant about his latest thing, I’m able to build up love in our marriage and in our home.
The small things play out when we’re out and about too. I can choose to smile at the people in the grocery store aisles. I can reach out and say hi to other moms at the library’s toddler time. I can look a homeless person in the eye when we pass them on the street. I can try to shop more ethically, buying items from places that treat their workers right. I can donate food or baby clothes or diapers or whatever else we have extra of. There are so many small ways that we can make the lives of those around us better. Just by recognizing the people in front of us using these small actions done with great love, we are able to make the world a better place.
“God doesn’t require us to succeed, he only requires that you try.”
This one is so so important. In attempting to be love to everyone around me, I burn myself out trying so hard to be the “perfect” parent, wife, neighbor, friend, daughter, etc. By taking baby steps and doing everything with love, Mother Teresa reminds me that it is really just the doing, the trying, that matters- I don’t need to do it all perfectly. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that we can become complacent because we “tried” and that’s what counts. It’s a new effort every day of loving the people God has put in front of us the best that we can.
On my part, I am working on loving my children by being present with them and giving them my attention instead of getting sucked into things that don’t really matter. Some days, I may yell and have no patience, some days they may hit their heads or get hurt too many times to count, and some days they may eat mac and cheese for every single meal. Yet, if I always come back and do my best to love them, that is truly what matters. The same goes for my husband, other family members, friends, and even strangers. Often, the “trying” is done in just being present with others, listening to them, and being the love that they need in their life. We need to be open to whatever and whoever God is calling us to love and not be afraid to take the leap to love them even when it might feel a little uncomfortable or we don’t know if it’ll be received well. We must try to do what we can to create change, even when we don’t know what the end result will be.
“I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us, and we change things.”
One of my favorite stories of Mother Teresa is that of when one of the sisters in her convent approached her worrying that they didn’t have enough time to serve all of the people they needed to. Mother Teresa replied by saying that they must then increase their daily holy hour to two hours. For only through prayer would they be able to have the strength and peace to go out and do all of the work that is needed to be done. Only through prayer do we realize that it is really God doing the work. By handing our work over to Him, He is able to multiply it, to make it more effective, and to create the world as it was meant to be.
I’m not currently able (or willing?) to have a daily holy hour not to mention two! In my stage of life, I’m happy when I get 20 minutes a day (especially if they’re in a row!) But even so, I know that when I do take that time with Jesus, I’m able to be a better mom, a better wife, and a better person in general. I’m not sure how God does it, but He multiplies my time and keeps me present with my kids, husband, and others around me. Prayer also often challenges me to be a better person. It shows me areas I need to grow in, places where I haven’t been the kind of person God is calling to me. By giving whatever time that I’m able to give to him in my day, God multiplies it and changes me into a person who can then go out, love better, and create change in the world.
Mother Teresa knew what she was talking about, and she sure walked the walk. I aspire to be half as loving as she was, to be half as giving of myself as she was. By following in Mother Teresa’s footsteps, as different as it may look in my life, I hope that I can become the person that I am meant to be. I hope that I can spread love to those God has placed in my life through small actions rooted in love, and I pray that I am not held back from being love when I feel like I cannot succeed. In doing all of these things, and in rooting myself in God through prayer, I know that I am doing my part to make this world a better place. I hope that you’ll join me on the journey.
Want to get to know Mother Teresa a little better? Try out these awesome books! (The first is one of my personal favorites)
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