First, let me get one thing straight right off the bat. This past Sunday, Pope Francis acclaimed that Mother Teresa is a saint. He did not make her a saint as so many are incorrectly saying. The Church does not make saints. Only God makes saints. The Church acclaims to the world that a person is a model for everyone to follow in their daily lives, thus calling that person a ‘saint.’ Okay, now that we have that out of the way, please allow me to continue.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta was a remarkable woman. She left behind so many things, including her wisdom. She told us:
“We do not need to carry out grand things in order to show a great love for God and for our neighbor. It is the intensity of love we put into our gestures that makes them into something beautiful for God.”
“Since we cannot see Christ, we cannot express our love to Him. But we do see our neighbor, and we can do for him what we would do for Christ if He were visible.”
“Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.”
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”
“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us.”
“It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters.”
“Speak softly, and carry a big stick.”
No wait, that was Theodore Roosevelt, and it wasn’t about God; it was about political and military might, but here’s where I think the similarity lies. Mother Teresa spoke softly but carried the might of God. She didn’t need political power; in fact, she had none. She didn’t need military power; in fact, she believed only in peace. She knew that the only weapon she needed was love. Love is the “big stick” that we are all called to carry. And though she would have had other things in mind, can’t you see Mother Teresa advising her fellow sisters to “Speak softly?”
Oh how hard that is. When someone has wronged you, when you’re cut off by another driver, when your child has misbehaved, isn’t one of your first reactions to yell? Often times, mine is, and it shames me. Later, I will always think of so many other ways that I could have better handled the situation. I know, I see it in their faces, detect it in their shift of posture; no child, or any person for that matter, continues to listen once we lose control of our own emotions. We might as well be yelling at a brick wall or an empty chair. And how does that make that other person feel? No doubt, like the empty chair. Like they’re not actually there in your eyes, not worthy of your respect, not worthy of being spoken to with dignity, not worthy of having an open dialogue with you.
My children had a favorite middle school teacher. They still talk about her today, the respect she showed them, how hard they were willing to work for her, how much they learned from her both academically and as a person. They often say, when telling others about her, that even when she was angry, she spoke softly, and with a smile. That’s what impressed them the most. That she never, ever lost her temper, never spoke harshly to anyone, never treated another person with disrespect, and was never without a smile. I can’t look at her today without thinking about the impact she had on them, and I pray that they will always take her behavior and attitude to heart.
Each of us is called to strive to be a better person, the person whom God created us to be. I know that I have a long way to go, but it helps to have examples all around us that we can look to as role models — saints and middle school teachers alike (heck, I think anyone who teaches middle school must be destined for sainthood). Each of us is called to treat each other with kindness, to see every person as someone deserving of love, respect, and dignity. Every act throughout every day should be an act of love, which brings me to my favorite Mother Teresa quote of all time.
“I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”
May you add your own paragraph to that love letter in all that you do and concerning every person you meet.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.
You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.