“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa
We are living in troubled times. With a war going on, the influx of refugees, and when everyone has a grudge against someone or the other, the things that seem amiss in society are two words – compassion and kindness. These very strong words have the power to bring change. When we think of these two elementary words, they bring a sense of calmness and a smile to our faces. Two words, when visualized, bring to our minds the image of a frail, simple, loving, caring, and always-smiling angel – Mother Teresa.
Mother Teresa possessed a degree of goodness that is very rare to find in society today. Her acts of compassion began in India, but her heart was too large to be confined to one place. She was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhin to Albanian parents on 26th August 1910 in Skopie, Macedonia. She lost her father at a very young age. A very religious and strong mother raised her. She regularly took food, clothing, and other items to the needy. Mother Teresa recalled that her mother never broadcasted her good deeds. It had a very lasting impression on the little child.
Agness was a pious and compassionate woman who was deeply committed to charity. Throughout her adolescence, she was active in the church at ‘The Sacred Heart’. At 18, she joined ‘Sisters Of Loreto’, an Irish community of nuns with missions in India, to become a missionary nun where she learned English. She reached India in 1929, and in the process of becoming a nun, she took the name of ‘Teresa’. She was assigned to teach at Loreto Convent School in Darjeeling. She was later sent to Loreto Entally, a district of Calcutta on the East side of the city.
After witnessing India’s Bengal famine and partition, she was very disturbed. She saw bodies lying on roads, violence everywhere, and food supplies had reached a standstill. During these troubled times, she realized that her true calling was to serve humanity. She always said that the service of the poor is the service of god. She left the convent and founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950. Today, it has more than 4500 members and is active in 133 countries. Their mission is to take care of the hungry, homeless, disabled, blind, lepers, and all those who feel unwanted, unloved, and uncared for.
She won many awards and distinctions for her life’s work, including the Nobel Peace Prize and Bharat Ratna. She died at the age of 87 on 5th September 1997. Her life has inspired many to follow the same path. She was pronounced a saint in 2016.
One of the most valuable lessons we can learn from her is to never give up. It was only with grit and determination that she was able to overcome all the darkness. She started with ‘Nirmal Hridaya’, a house for those who were terminally ill in 1952, in order to give them an honorable death. In 1955, she opened a children’s home for orphans and later a leper colony, ‘Shanti Nagar’, where lepers could live and work. She found joy in serving others and taught us that we all need each other.
It is in human nature to love and be loved. After she won the Nobel Peace Prize, she was asked what could be done to promote world peace. Her answer was simple: “Go home and love your family”. She taught us not to worry about numbers but to help one person at a time and begin with the one nearest to us. She believed in the value of simple gestures. She said – “Not all of us can do great things, But we can do small things with great love.”
Today let’s go back to her teachings. Let’s make our life simple. Let’s believe in ourselves. Let’s believe in the power of an individual to bring change.
Let’s be kind. Let’s be compassionate. Let’s be human.
The writer Nidhi Raj is a homemaker, storyteller, and mother with a keen interest in women’s issues and international relations.