Mother Teresa's acts of kindness felt locally
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
An icon of kindness will be beatified Oct. 19 in Rome by Pope John Paul II. By her small acts of caring for the dying on the streets of Calcutta, India, Mother Teresa set in motion a ripple effect that has washed the shores of every continent and touched lives right here in Cochrane.
Two Cochrane folks who have volunteered at Kalighat, Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying in Calcutta, are Leslie Davies and Matt Rogers. In view of the concern some of our readers have expressed over the meaninglessness of small acts of kindness toward the poor when, they reason, larger responses to the underlying causes of poverty would seem more in order, I asked Leslie and Matt for their opinions on Mother Teresa's approach.
Leslie, presently a human rights advocate in Mexico, spent four months at Kalighat in 1996, the year before Mother Teresa's death. She writes:
MATT AGREES wholeheartedly. The 27-year-old university student, sometime coffee server, and serious Ironman competitor spent a month at Kalighat in 2001. He fed and bathed the suffering, and did laundry, dishes and anything else he could to be helpful.
"To say that Mother Teresa's small acts of kindness were meaningless can be seen to be untrue just by going there," Matt told me recently. "I would argue, as pitiful as her attempts were, she did achieve a great many things, one step at a time. Had it been any other way, she would have been so overwhelmed that she wouldn't have achieved anything."
I asked Matt what his own reasons were for going to Kalighat.
"I felt there must be something more that I can do, coming from such wealth as we enjoy in Cochrane," he said. "Going to a place like Kalighat, I realized my presence and my compassion were the only gifts I could give."
Leslie's and Matt's comments remind me of how Mother Teresa herself responded to her detractors:
"We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love."
© 2003 Warren Harbeck