What makes Mother Teresa stand out is her focus on the individual.
She said, “I do not agree with the big way of doing things. To us what matters is an individual.”
This philosophy has had an impact on countless individuals who once felt unwanted.
Her philosophy reminds one of the story about an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean . Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!” (adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley 1907–1977)
This is exactly the impact that Mother Teresa has had.
She remarked, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.”
Mother Teresa also had an impact on the Christian faith. She walked the talk. Even after her death, 20 years ago, she is still is a role model to all those who profess to be followers of Christ.
When Mother Teresa started to help the poor she herself had to beg for food. She said, “The vow of poverty is very, very strict in our congregation because to be able to love the poor and to know the poor we must be poor ourselves.”
However, her faith was also tested. She wrote a letter to her spiritual confidant that she doubted her faith. This honesty in her crisis is refreshing for the “average” Christian.
When doubts creep in, and times of spiritual drought plague the follower it’s comforting to know that the giants of the faith suffered as well.
Even Jesus’ own disciple, Thomas, who followed him for 3 years, had doubts about the risen Christ. Evangelist, Billy Graham, also suffered a crisis of faith. But what these people have in common was to face their doubts and continue on in the faith regardless of their feelings.
Mother Teresa continued in her faith. She believed that faith is a personal relationship with God and the incarnate Christ. She believed in the Bible. She believed in prayer. These are the foundations of the Christian faith.
Malcolm Muggeridge, the author of Something Beautiful for God, said
“To me, Mother Teresa represents, essentially, love in action which is surely what Christianity is about.”
(First featured on Medium platform March 18, 2019)