The Guardian

The woman sent to protect the souls of Calcutta has a special place in our history. Regardless of religion or belief, we are inspired by her example:  Mother Teresa of Calcutta was a vigilant form of charity, and a simple reminder that anyone can provide for those in need.

Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born in the Balkans in August 1910. A desire for missionary work brought her to the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland, where she took her vows and changed her name to Sister Mary Teresa after a saint of missionaries. She traveled to India in 1929 where her new life began. She taught at St. Mary’s School for Girls in Calcutta and became principal there in 1944. Four years later, Teresa donned a white and blue sari (the traditional garb that would frame her short but dominant figure until her death on 5 September 1997), left her convent, and entered the slums.

How could she wake up each morning and tend to the sore-ridden, the malnourished and the dying? How could she offer so much with so little to sustain herself? Her labors must have been exhausting, yet she was inexhaustible. More sisters joined her efforts over the years, leading to a charitable force that touched every continent—including most of the Soviet states. Mother Teresa founded at least six different missionary groups and branches by 1984. She was rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She died on September 5, 1997 and received a state funeral by the Indian government.

Some familiar with Mother Teresa’s work would not advise you to imitate her charity in the literal sense:  transplanting yourself in a foreign land to help the needy is a monumental commitment. Rather, the communication of charity to those in need can happen every day in your own way. Give a buck to a guy on the curb, donate your time to a food pantry, bring winter clothing to a shelter. Call your town hall or local parish about charitable services and how you can contribute. Google the names of relief organizations that respond to recent disasters and find a way to help them. Like pebbles rolling down a hill into an avalanche, even the tiniest sign of kindness can lead to a mass-movement of charity.

Few in our century can equate with Mother Teresa, but anyone can live by her example.


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