Mother Teresa’s Life of ‘Small Things With Great Love’

Rick Kraft

WHATEVER you neglected to do unto one of the least of these, you neglected to do unto me!’’ Words from Matthew 25:40 that provided inspiration for an amazing lady who lived her life modeling this scripture.

There was not a star in the sky over the hospital when Agnes Bojaxhiu entered this world in August 1910 in Skopje, in what is now the Balkan country of North Macedonia. Later known as Mother Teresa, until she turned 18, she had not thought about becoming a nun. At 18 she began her religious life in Ireland attending Our Lady of Loreto and leaving her family and the only life she had known. She was never to see her mother again.

At age 36, her “second calling” took her to Calcutta, India, where she took a unique approach in her ministry by “taking it to the streets” and moving into the slums to serve God among the poorest of poor. Mother Teresa made decisions that impacted the world, one life at a time.

In another humbling move, Mother Teresa decided she would set aside the habit she had worn during her years as a nun and wear the ordinary dress of an Indian woman: a plain white sari and sandals.

Mother Teresa modeled servant leadership each step that she took.

She was once asked about assisting in the creation of a grandiose hospital that would be named after her. Mother Teresa was asked to think about all of the lives that the hospital could help and how all who entered would see her name. Without missing a beat, her response was quick: “God did not call me to minister to the millions, but to minister to the one in front of me.” The person in front of her was all that her life was about.

God blessed Mother Teresa with many years. Most of us remember her as a small, fragile, older woman who walked slowly. I watched a movie about her life and it was interesting to see her as a young lady, and to see how she “bucked the system” to live among the poor.

Once when she was in Calcutta, India, Mother Teresa was tending to a wound on a leprous person when a couple of American tourists came by and saw her bandaging his wound. One tourist asked, “Mother Teresa, can I take your picture?” Without looking up she said, “Sure,” and so the American tourist took the picture. The tourist stepped back and whispered to another, sharing, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.” Mother Teresa, overhearing the comment, continued to tend to the wound and, again without looking up said, “Neither would I!”

Mother Teresa just had a different way of looking at life. It wasn’t about what others could do for her, it was about how she could serve others.

In her talk to the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. on Feb. 3, 1994, Mother Teresa opened her comments with words from Matthew 25:35, “On the last day, Jesus will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, enter the Kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited me.’ Then Jesus will turn to those on His left hand and say, ‘Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me drink, I was sick and you did not visit me.’ These will ask Him, ‘When did we see You hungry, or thirsty or sick and did not come to Your help?’ And Jesus will answer them, ‘Whatever you neglected to do unto one of the least of these, you neglected to do unto me!’ ’’

She continued later in her talk, saying, “How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live?”

Mother Teresa was a person making a difference, one life at a time. She lived her life one day at a time, ministering to the one in front of her. Up until her death on Sept. 5, 1997 Mother Teresa continued to work with the poorest of poor.

My challenge to you today is to learn from the model set for us by Mother Teresa. Who has been placed in front of you who has needs? We each have the power to change this world, one life at a time. Is your life about you? Or is it about others?

Humbly downplaying her significance in this world, Mother Teresa described herself as “God’s pencil — a tiny bit of pencil with which He writes what He likes.’’ What does your pencil write?

As Mother Teresa often shared, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

Our world would be a different place if it were packed with Mother Teresas. If our world was filled with people just like you, what would our world be like? Would the world be better or worse? We can be as effective as Mother Teresa in impacting lives; it happens one choice at a time.

Make your choices carefully. Their sum total will be your life …

Just a thought …

Rick Kraft, a South Pasadena High School graduate, is a syndicated columnist, motivational speaker, published author and attorney. To submit comments, contributions or ideas, e-mail to