Today I went to the Motherhouse not knowing what to expect, but knowing I had to be there. During this time in Calcutta, I’ve been praying to Mother Teresa, asking her to direct and guide me … to tell or show me what she wants to be revealed through what I do.
The morning was simple enough. I attended a 6:00 a.m. Mass with the sisters and volunteers and then spent some time at the foot of Mother Teresa’s tomb. I prayed, I took some photos, and I wrote about seeing the face of Christ in the Poor.
It was what happened later in the day that shook me.
I went to sign up as a volunteer for Saturday, meaning I would put the camera down and actually do something that might help someone in a tangible way, keeping in mind that it would be Christ I serve in whomever he places in my path. As it turned out, I didn’t have to wait until Saturday.
I was leaving the sign-up area when I saw a television crew I had noticed earlier. I decided to see what they were up to and tag along. Heck, what’s one more media guy in the fray? I found myself in the Home for Children of the Missionaries of Charity and was able to witness the great work that is done day in and day out by Sr. Joan of Arc, the novices and the volunteers.
Sr. Ita, who was instrumental in getting me to Calcutta in the first place, happened to walk in. She pulled me aside and said she wanted to take me to where the handicapped children are.
“Sure!” I replied, and we left the crew and went alone to the second floor of Nirmala Shishu Bhavan (the home for children), to the handicapped section.
As we entered, I saw dozens of children who are severely disabled, and with them were novices and sisters laughing and playing. It was a place of happiness. A place of impoverished, disabled children. A place of happiness? Really?
I walked around some, and a young girl looked up at me, directly at me, so I knelt down beside her. She couldn’t move much, but was completely focused on me. I started playing peek-a-boo, covering my eyes quickly with my hands and then removing them, and she smiled a little. We played this game for a bit and then it happened:
I touched her arm … and she touched my heart.
She smiled so wide that I though her face would break.
All I did was touch her … and that’s all it took.
Sometimes a touch can change the world … at least it did for this little girl, and this beat up old dude.
In that moment I felt overwhelmed (OK, fine, I’m an emotional guy, I admit it). Overwhelmed by her genuine joy, and at the same time overwhelmed by the fact that I could do nothing to help her and that her chances of being adopted were about a million to one (I was told) because of her challenges.
My heart leapt for joy and at the same time was utterly broken. She was just happy for my presence at that moment in time, and for my touch … the way Jesus is…
“I thirst,” Mother Teresa always remembered Christ saying …
This is the reality of those who are in desperate need: “They thirst …”
You should consider coming to Calcutta to experience what it means to have such an encounter. I’m not making this suggestion lightly. The encounter with those who are in such incredibly desperate need that the mere fact of your being present means the world — for them, and for you.
I’ll never forget that encounter as long as I live.
I think that’s what Mother Teresa wanted me to see today. Thank you, Mother…