Updated: Sep 8, 2020
Some point skyward when describing the ‘call.’ Others tell of an inexplicably tickle or quiver of the conscious. Evidently, the voice of our inner being delivers the ‘call’ in many ways. We, nearly universally, await ‘the call,’ hoping it will provide some meaning and purpose. Sometimes we pursue it. We look for signs, be it subtle mystic whispers, a tap on the shoulder from the Almighty, a searing nightmare, or perhaps an event so profound that it changes our lives and moves us into action. Losing a loved one to injustice, seeing an image of authority unjustly applied, or coming across a human passed out in a gutter can be just the motive we need to make it our new cause- our higher calling.
Often, higher callings are calls to undo an injustice. We’re motived when we lose a friend or loved one to the injustice of a drunk driver or drugs. We consider how we might help those who are victims of abuse. We struggle with how to care for the homeless and why anyone should go hungry in this age of great abundance.
Perhaps that was what motivated Mother Teresa. She answered her call and left the comfort of her Albanian upbringing for Calcutta’s grit, suffocating heat, leprosy, and poverty. After several years in India, Mother Teresa experienced what she would describe as a “call within a call,” a voice from her inner conscious. In 1946, she committed to living her life amidst Calcutta’s poor and caring for them. She did so nearly every day for the rest of her life. She died in 1997.
A friend of mine retells of meeting the indomitable Mother Teresa decades ago on the streets of Calcutta. Already old and frail, she explained her mission with great strength and passion. She did not hesitate to tell his entourage- the best way for wealthy western people to help her cause was to send money.
Much of the life of Mother Teresa has been chronicled. There is no record of her organizing protest marches against the injustice of poverty. There is no recollection of her lecturing or shaming the Calcutta community or its leaders about corruption, or the biases against those with leprosy, or how to use its public money. She possibly bit her lower lip and kept quiet over the injustice of a culture where many place a higher value on a cow than a human life. For fifty years, she did what she could- living amongst and personally tending to the needy and asking the wealthy for donations (a task she was more than capable of doing).
For certain, Mother Teresa grew up in another era. Hers was the church and a time when social projects were the purview of charitable organizations. If there was suffering from the injustice of hunger or folks displaced because of war or border disputes, the church would do its best to provide comfort and material goods. When I say the church, I mean to say individuals like Mother Teresa, who recognized a need and heeded the ‘call’ to fill it. The church would provide financial and logistical services.
Twenty years younger than Mother Teresa, my mother was also ‘called.’ She took a phone call from another individual who spoke of a community need to assist young mothers against the physical and mental abuse of a partner or husband. She answered ‘yes’ and helped found the organization. She would dedicate much of her remaining life making sure mothers, and their children would be safe, clothed, fed, and, if necessary, retrained so they might re-enter the workforce. She would personally make phone calls to the communities business people to raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars it took to operate New Way Ministries. She would put her money where her mouth was and donate much of her financial resources to her cause.
Mother Teresa and my mother shared one very important characteristic necessary to actually change the world for so many. They both answered the ‘call.’ They recognized the whisper of the inner conscious and acted on it. They could have just thought about it. Maybe mention to others how they would like to get involved. But they moved beyond mere words to actual action. They didn’t wait for a government agency to give them a grant. They didn’t concern themselves with the theoretical causes of injustice or hunger or abuse but rather the effect. They saw individuals who needed help.
Today, there is a notion that injustices are solved by pointing out the imperfections of our world or nation or state or community or neighbor. Often animated by anger, some join the self-righteous orgy by offering up lectures, chants, or wave a sign or finger. Others will offer a statement of purity on the social media page. Some will roam your neighborhood bistro and demand you raise a fist or take a knee to prove your born again status. They then return home and resume life comfortably- self-satisfied with their contribution- until the next outrage.
Perhaps that is a manifestation of our attention span today. A single image today causes an immediate outrage. Our inner conscious quakes so we demand immediate action, destruction of the ‘system’ if necessary, and conformity. A temper tantrum until someone says, “Sure, we’ll defund the police and force everyone into re-education seminars. And don’t spray-paint my condo, please.” Wink. Wink.
That is social justice in America. Some wear the term ‘warrior’ proudly.
I am quite certain Mother Teresa never saw herself as a Social Justice Warrior. She saw the injustice of hunger and dying alone in gutters and committed her life to help the best way she knew how- by living amongst them and seeing that they were fed and comforted. Her ‘calling’ had her eschew a life of comfort found in a convent, or her hometown of Skopje surrounded by family and friends.
This small diminutive woman with an indomitable spirit answered her ‘call’ and has been an inspiration to millions- maybe billions. The young should study the life of Mother Teresa because only then will they understand what a ‘warrior’ is.