With Strength, Hope and Love

January 15, 2013
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People milling everywhere. Thatched roofs straining against each other, held up with old tarps and rags, supported by shapeless bricks. Shoeless children run free, skipping around narrow mildew stained walls spotted with the occasional piece of charcoal drawn artwork interspersed with red graffiti. Naked wires hanging from makeshift electric poles, leaning dangerously over the tattered roofs. People of every age shuffling through their daily lives. Children, teenagers, men and women, the elderly, all somehow co-existing in the cramped spaces, sometimes a dozen to a room: sleeping, watching TV, rocking infants, cooking meals, washing dishes and clothes, making pottery, their hands parched and cracked. A miscellany of sounds and smells: from shrieking infants to howling stray dogs,  jangling bicycle horns all merged with the steam from the cooking rice and the stench of the narrow, open sewer drains. Not many smiles to be found, most faces displaying a resigned single-mindedness on the task at hand. Amidst these scanty slums worked a small statured five foot figure in a simple cotton saree. Her hands at work - holding, caring, feeding, nursing, comforting. At odds with her surroundings, her countenance radiated light and hope. They called her Mother. Mother Teresa.

Born Gonxha (Agnes) Bojaxhiu, on August 27, 1910, in Skopje, Yugoslavia, Mother showed an interest in helping others from childhood. She traveled all over the world, but her heart was especially drawn towards India's miserable slums. At just 18 years old, Mother was fervent in her desire to aid suffering people and soon founded organizations to support her cause. "The Missionaries of Charity began their distinctive work of ministering to the dying in 1952" (Gale Biography in Context). Mother Teresa was a woman of true character. She was devoted to the welfare of the needy and the sick. She volunteered all her time and energy with great dedication, selflessness and stunning compassion -- a munificent individual who stood apart and inspired awe. Mother received worldwide recognition and respect for her remarkable work. "Mother Teresa's work has been recognised and acclaimed throughout the world and she has received a number of awards and distinctions, including the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize (1971) and the Nehru Prize for her promotion of international peace and understanding (1972). She also received the Balzan Prize (1979) and the Nobel Peace Prize of 1969" (Mother Teresa Biography). Unaffected by the fame, she was an angelic soul; Teresa put any money she received into her work, as donations to help her programs. Mother Teresa not only devoted herself to alleviating the pain and grief of the underprivileged, but also carried selflessness, generosity, and a strong set of morals with her. She represented a a pillar of faith for the suffering.

Mother Teresa led a simple life, sacrificing any self-comforts, bringing peace to herself and to those around her. During her first experience with the needy, Mother strongly felt it was her duty to dedicate herself to the less-fortunate: "On 21 December she went for the first time to the slums. She visited families, washed the sores of some children, cared for an old man lying sick on the road and nursed a woman dying of hunger and TB" (Mother Teresa of Calcutta Center). When Mother went to serve those in need, she did not once stop to think about her own circumstances; she put others first and did exactly what her heart told her to. Her every action was delivered with admirable intention and care. The time and effort that she put into her work earned her respect and awe from those in her presence. She displayed boundless compassion and believed that life was precious: "If you hear of someone who does not want to have her child, try to convince her to bring the child to me. I will love that child, who is a sign of God's love" (Teresa, Mother). She had always envisaged a world fueled by love and compassion. Mother Teresa found children to be a great source of happiness. For this reason, she was further compelled to give herself completely to needy causes. The selflessness with which Mother led her life was a part of her character and a reason why people respected her deeds.

Mother Teresa's generous personality prompted her to give up everything she had as a form of devotion and love for the needy. Her passion for serving was displayed in an inspiring experience: "One day I picked up a man from the gutter. His body was covered with worms. I brought him to our house, and what did this man say? He did not curse. He did not blame anyone. He just said, 'I've lived like an animal in the street, but I'm going to die like an angel, loved and cared for!' It took us three hours to clean him. Finally, the man looked up at the sister and said,'Sister, I'm going home to God.' And then he died. I've never seen such a radiant smile on a human face as the one I saw on that man's face" (Teresa, Mother). Mother touched the heart of the once unloved man and made him feel wanted. She said that, "every individual is equally important" and served true to her word. She placed great value on each individual, and believed that God was present everywhere and in everyone. She touched the entire world by assisting each individual with extreme devotion and compassion. It may not have been possible to completely vanquish sorrow and grief, but Mother's soulful intentions were worthwhile and valued. Mother Teresa generously started many organizations, many of which were dedicated to saintly work: "She formed the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa and the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers: people of many faiths and nationalities with whom she shared her spirit of prayer, simplicity, sacrifice, and her apostolate of humble works of love" (Mother Teresa). These two organizations were among hundreds of organizations that Teresa founded. Their main focus was to not only bring awareness about the impoverished to outsiders, but also was a way to share love and a part of her generous lifestyle. Her gift of giving was embedded in her persona and radiated through her daily practice.

With her deep faith in God by her side, and a strong set of morals on her back, Mother Teresa served the impoverished with strength and faith. She often spoke of her faith, her words invigorating many and giving an insight into what propelled her: "What is my spiritual life? A love union with Jesus in which the divine and the human gave themselves completely to one another. All that Jesus asks of me is to give myself to Him in all my poverty and nothingness." (Teresa, Mother). She lived by these words. Mother Teresa's real life was an enactment of her spiritual beliefs. Her sacrifice of personal comforts and unwavering service with generosity and love were acts of faith. "Jesus" asks Teresa "to give [herself] up to him in all [her] poverty and nothingness" (Teresa, Mother). Out of this sentence comes her explanation for wanting to serve the poorest of the poor, or the sick struggling to survive. She believed that with "nothingness" comes a sense of self-worth and its scale in relation to the universe. It reveals the source for her deep and unwavering humility in face of her fame. It also sheds some light on how she relinquished any assumption of control on her future or any focus on earnings. Throughout her life, Teresa never worried about where she was getting income to survive: "'Money is really no problem,' she once explained.'We depend on divine providence. The Lord sends [money]. We do his work; he provides the means...our services are purely for the love of God and [we] cannot accept maintenance.'" (Teresa, Mother). This complete submission to her faith really reveals Mother Teresa's inner motivations and beliefs. She dedicated her life to service with total commitment, handing off the care of her life to God. She did not want to accept donations from people wanting to keep her healthy because she felt that God had done so already. Teresa's staunch faith in God and her morals made it easier for her to carry out her work passionately.

Mother Teresa's attitude contributed to the positivity she spread and to her overall character. Her sacrifice, selflessness, generosity, and morality are traits to be valued, admired, and reflected upon. Through her faithful actions, she encouraged others to find peace within themselves and preached that the rest will fall into place. She believed that with a passion comes a drive, and with a drive comes actions. Mother Teresa's outstanding works are ones to be honored and respected. While discussing working in shoddy areas, Mother highly regards peoples’ feelings: "If one of our sisters is not in at least a serene mood, I do not allow her to go visit the poor. The poor already have so many reasons to feel sad; how could we take them the affliction of our own personal bad moods" (Teresa, Mother). Teresa is so conscientious about serving the poor, that she even considers their emotional well-being when her Sisters go and meet them. This mindset she possesses shows value and respect for every individual and is highly motivational. Mother gave up her entire life to assist the less fortunate. She is an inspiration because of her devotion to a difficult cause that few will choose as their life’s work. She lived true to her spiritual beliefs with great humility, simplicity and complete honesty. Her outer world was a clear mirror of her inner world. Moreover, she always kept a bright and positive attitude. Those personally assisted by Mother were so moved by her sense of humility and compassion, that even their damaged lives felt beautiful. She touched the world with her life of love and giving. Mother Teresa’s belief that helping someone in need is worth giving everything up for will forever serve as an inspiration.

Works Cited

"Mother Teresa." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.
"Mother Teresa Is Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, December 10, 1979." DISCovering World
History. Online ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Student Resource Center - Junior. Gale. DEL NORTE HIGH SCHOOL. 10 Dec. 2012.
"Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997)." Mother Teresa of Calcutta Center. Missionaries of
Charity, n.d Web. 10 Dec. 2012.<http://motherteresa.org/layout.html>.
Teresa, Mother. No Greater Love. 2nd ed. New York: MJF and New World Library, 1997. Print.

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