In this globally-connected world, it doesn’t seem that one person can do much to change the course of history, of countries, of cities or even of families. Our challenges are many and it’s often difficult to know where to begin.
In 1979 when Mother Teresa of Calcutta was announced as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, many saw this as an affront to those with political power and expertise who were working hard at solving the world’s challenges to maintain or attain peace in many troubled lands.
A Simple PlanIn response to those who protested her canonization, officially proclaiming her a saint (one who now lives with God), Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, editor of the Vatican-affiliated missionary news agency AsiaNews, said: “She didn’t have a plan to conquer the world. Her idea was to be obedient to God.”
It seems that, in comparison to the multi-national efforts at achieving world peace, Mother Teresa’s efforts were quite insignificant. Yet, in her own words, she explains in her elegant simplicity:
“I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look only at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. Just one, one, one.
“You get closer to Christ by coming closer to each other. As Jesus said, ‘Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.’ So you begin... I begin.
“I picked up one person (because he was terminally ill and alone) – maybe if I didn't pick up that one person I wouldn't have picked up all the others. The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if we don't put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less.
“Same thing for you. Same thing in your family. Same thing in the church where you go. Just begin... one, one, one.”
I Am God’s PencilHer approach is deceptively simple and yet quite challenging. In describing her motivation to serve the lost people of society, she explains that she simply did this for Christ: “I am nothing. He is all. I do nothing on my own. He does it. This is what I am, God's pencil. A tiny bit of pencil with which (God) writes what he likes.”
In another situation, explaining the ministry efforts of her religious congregation, she said: "Do not underestimate our practical means – the work for the poor, no matter how small or humble – that make our life something beautiful for God."
Like Mahatma Gandhi, her basic vision of life is quite simple. She summarizes: “Love is the reason for my life."
Her Secret – Begin at HomeThe secret in all of this is that, as a goal for our life, each of us can become God’s pencil, writing small but genuinely loving words in many people’s book of life. We simply need to begin – with our own household, our family, our co-workers, our close friends – performing those day-to-day genuinely loving gestures of forgiveness, support, interest, attention, or caring. And all of this can change for the better the hearts of those in our circle of life.
In her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, she summarized our mission as part of God’s creation:
“And so… I want you to find the poor here, right in your own home first. And begin love there. Be that good news to your own people. And find out about your next-door neighbor – do you know who they are?... I believe that love begins at home…The poor in our own family first, in our country and in the world.”