Column: Let Mother Teresa shoe you how to love

by Father Mark Goldasich

I thought that I knew a lot about Mother Teresa. Turns out I was wrong.

Author Shane Claiborne spent a summer working with her in the Calcutta slums. Here is one of his experiences:

“People often ask me what Mother Teresa was like. Did she glow in the dark or have a halo? She was short, wrinkled, and precious, maybe even a little ornery — like a beautiful, wise old granny. But there is one thing I will never forget — her feet were deformed. Each morning during Mass, I would stare at those feet. I wondered if Mother Teresa had leprosy. But I wasn’t going to ask, of course.

One day, a Sister asked us, ‘Have you noticed Mother’s feet?’ We nodded. She said, ‘Her feet are deformed because we get just enough donated shoes for everyone, and Mother does not want anyone to get stuck with the worst pair, so she digs through and finds those. Years of wearing bad shoes have deformed her feet.’”

Claiborne notes, “That is the kind of love that places our neighbors’ needs above our own.” (Found in “1001 Illustrations That Connect (#135),” by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, general editors.)

Curious, I went online to see if there were any pictures of Mother Teresa’s feet. Sure enough, there were . . . and they were deformed. Wow, it seems like there was nothing this woman would not do to show her love for others.

I’m thinking about love because this issue of The Leaven comes out on Valentine’s Day. I’ve heard plenty of people “pooh-pooh” this day as just a marketing ploy on the part of cards and candy manufacturers, jewelry salespeople or the flower industry. Well, I don’t know and honestly don’t care if that’s really the case. What is important is that we need reminders every so often to love, to do good for others.

It’s been a brutal winter so far. What’s the harm in having a February day devoted to the warmth that love could bring — not only to those closest to us, but to all our fellow human beings?

Just for fun, I Googled “ways to do good.” Happily, there were plenty of hits! So, if you’d like to chase away some of the winter blahs, here are some suggestions
. . . after, of course, you’ve expressed your love to those closest to you on Feb. 14.

• Donate “once-in-a-life- time” clothing, like bridesmaid dresses, prom dresses and even bridal gowns. Let someone who can’t afford items like this enjoy them.

• Write a letter to someone serving in the military or to a missionary in a foreign land.

• Surprise a college student with a gift card or CARE package.

• Bring flowers to someone who recently lost a loved one or to someone who is feeling down.

• Volunteer time at a soup kitchen, the library, your parish, or with the Scouts, Little League, or Big Brothers Big Sisters.

• Donate services, like helping folks prepare their taxes, doing minor home repairs for the elderly, etc.

• Don’t bully others — in person or online.

• Give a fellow reader a book you’ve read and enjoyed. Get together later over coffee to discuss it.

• Make something for someone: a picture, a pie or a home-cooked meal.

• Pass out compliments and encouragement shamelessly via email or Facebook.

• Do a goodness trifecta: Treat an old friend to a meal out, tip the server generously, and attend a play or concert (and support the local arts).

Lastly, maybe laminate and post in a prominent spot this quote from Mother Teresa — one I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, but remains a favorite:

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes and kindness in your smile.”

Imagine if we lived this way, not just on Feb. 14, but always. Gee, we’d all be a “shoe-in” for sainthood.

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