Thursday, October 31, 2013

Yes, Everyone CAN be Mother Teresa

In the spring I was sitting in a meeting with about a dozen other people from my community. We were having a discussion about adult involvement in children's extracurricular activities. During the course of the conversation I made the point that it takes very little effort to positively impact a child. I used the example of our decision to make our home as open and welcoming as possible to our kids' friends and how this practice has lead to many great conversations with our kids' friends about social issues and personal responsibility. Most people at the meeting just nodded but one person, who I know well and work with often on community issues, said, "Well, we can't all be Mother Teresa."

In the moment I just shrugged off this snarky reply as it was very out of character for him but, clearly, his words have stuck with me. I've thought about them often over the last couple of months. I've questioned whether I expect too much from people. I've wondered if I am too Pollyanna-ish in my views of what is possible. I've pondered whether my enthusiasm for the things I care about actually turns people off from being part of the solution. I've questioned, wondered and pondered but I've come up with no clear answers.

The last several weeks have been full of moments that lead to opportunities of personal growth ... that's a nice way of saying I've been stretched to my breaking point more than once but I've made it through alive and a little smarter than I was before. Anyway, in the midst of all this stretching and growing I've thought a lot about who I am and who I want to be. I've taken a good hard look at the things I give my energy to and whether my actions back up my words. I've also started working again, which has only fuelled my passion and sharpened my focus.

So, it was with some new life lessons under my belt and a better sense of the direction of my life that I thought about that Mother Teresa comment again and I finally have formulated a comeback.

"Yes, in fact, we can all be Mother Teresa."

Mother Teresa didn't set out to make a name for herself, to start a movement or to even help thousands of people. She set out to bring comfort to one person, dignity to one life and peace to one soul. That's it. She only ever sought to be useful where she was with whatever tools were at her disposal. She wanted the people in front of her to know they were seen and valued. She wanted her one life to make a difference in the life of just one other person. And when she had done all she could for that one person she moved on to help the next person and the next. She changed her world one life at a time.

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting an author and speaker whom I greatly respect. She was lovely and encouraging in the few moments I had with her and just before I walked away she wrote a message on my notebook. I quickly glanced at it, thanked her and walked away. It wasn't until a few days later that I really read it and the difference between what I thought it said and what it really said set me free to just be who I am, where I am.

I thought she had written Change the world! but she had actually written Change your world!

I may not be able to change the world but I know I can change my world. I may not be able to solve global poverty, to feed millions of starving children or provide clean water for the nations but I can give generously to the causes that speak to my heart, I can donate food to my local food bank and I can collect change to donate to the well project my kids' school in participating in. I may not be able to cure diseases and comfort the dying but I can be the best friend, mother, community member and pastor that I can be. I communicate love and peace and hope and joy through a thousand small decisions everyday. I can see the people right in front of me and let them know they are valued.

I can be Mother Teresa. Here. Right where I am.

And so can you.

If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
~Mother Teresa


Leigh Penner said...

Great post, Nichole! How cool that Lisa wrote that on your notebook!

Natalie said...

Awesome Nichole!