I don’t remember the first time I learned about the life of Mother Teresa but it was a long time ago. I sat glued to the photos of her in a magazine as she attended to the sick and infirm, to the poor and unwanted, to the forgotten and alone. I was mesmerized by those pictures – realizing life was more than just acquiring a job and (hopefully) raising a family. It was about helping others. It was about doing the work of God through our own hands.
I clearly remember, as a child, standing next to my mom as she was prepping the water for my brother’s bath and asking her about something I had learned in Sunday School. She was explaining to me that saints were people who dedicated their lives to God and they did this in many different ways. She went on to tell me that every single person is called to be a saint. Those words impacted me in a way I cannot fully describe but they’ve always been left lingering on my thoughts.
Surely, Mother Teresa was someone who was modeling saintly behavior in our current day. I became enamored by her life from this point forward. Missionary work now appealed to me in a way similar to being beckoned to a calling. Alas, my life didn’t allow me to follow this path even though I’ve thought about it for decades. There was even a point I was researching missionary work for families on the OCMC website. (As Les’ heartbeat starts picking up a bit reading that sentence. Hahaha. No, I don’t believe this is our next big calling anymore, even though missionary work still appeals to me…and let me explain why.)
A couple of years ago on Pinterest, I came across this quote:
“Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering, and the lonely right there where you are — in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools. You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have the eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society — completely forgotten, completely left alone.” -Mother Teresa
I read this quote several times. For years upon years, I felt that the only way I could REALLY do something special was to embrace a life similar to Mother Teresa. It had to be extreme. It had to be in another country. In these few words, she told me I could still live my life in a similar manner to hers and not have to leave the country. I could still use her life as an example for my own. And…I was! I had found my own Calcutta in the foster children I had brought into my home. I was caring for children who had been forgotten and neglected by their parents. Children who were not fed, who were not cared for, who were shifted from one friend to the next day after day. The work I was doing was not “inferior” to the work Mother Teresa did – it was simply different…not less needed than the work she was doing, just different.
Everything in my life led me to be a foster parent – my love for children, my intense yearning to be a mom, and even the inability to have children. God needed parents who wanted children so badly that they would see the joy and blessing in the eyes of every child…even children who were not biologically their own.
Last night, I was watching “Call the Midwife” on my DVR. I would not have initially watched this show on my own but a friend of mine suggested it to me shortly after Gabriel was born. A couple of episodes later on Netflix and I was hooked! The show is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth. I’ve started reading the first book. She worked as a midwife in London’s east side (extremely poor) in the 1950’s. The midwifery nuns had moved into the area after learning that women were dying regularly due to a lack of medically trained people delivering babies. It wasn’t uncommon for women to still die in childbirth in the area because the untrained person assisting in the delivery would simply leave and never come back if the delivery was taking too long or there was a complication. The memoirs are fascinating! (And, at least the first season that I know of, stays true to the book) To think there were still areas in England in the 50’s where they had to walk to get water and were still using bathhouses! These nuns saw a need in their area and went and helped. It was their Calcutta.
I’ve told my kids over and over again, I don’t care what job (or career) you choose as long as it’s done for the glory of God. As Niki was giving serious consideration to going into fashion, she approached me with concern, “How am I going to do anything for others with fashion?” We discussed it at length and it wasn’t long after that things seemed to be popping up as examples. Even with just her current internship, she’s found the opportunity to help 3 families (that I know about) through her job. I couldn’t be happier! She has taken my words to heart.
It also made me realize something else as well. All the times people told me, “I could never be a foster parent…” (fill in the reason) Mother Teresa was saying that we are not all called to do the exact same kind of work for God. Sure, hers was a bit more extreme than most of us will ever encounter but there is other work that needs to be done as well. There are the elderly people who can no longer drive – give them a ride to church every Sunday, or to the grocery store once a week, or to their doctor appointments. There are the parents who are weakening and aging who need extra help from their adult children. There are the homeless and hungry on our own streets that we pass up regularly. There are family and friends who could greatly benefit from some free babysitting. There are those who need someone to listen to their struggles over a cup of coffee, helping them overcome depression that could have possibly led to suicide. There’s countless ways to help others…if only we listen to our calling.
Where’s our own Calcutta?