Dr Jebamalai Vinanchiarachi
People are born, and people die. But the people’s verdict on people will never die.
The verdict of the people that Mother Teresa was a living saint will never die.
When she was part of the Sisters of Loreto congregation, she served for 20 years as a teacher.
She was indeed an ideal teacher, trying to produce intellectually trained, morally upright, spiritually inspired and socially committed students.
Her social commitment took a new turn when she was disturbed by the Bengal famine in 1943, which pushed many into misery. While reflecting on the magnitude of the famine during a train journey, she received ‘an inner call’ to serve the poorest of the poor.
She decided to be the hope for the hopeless and home for the homeless.
When she took a starving destitute from the street to the hospital, she could sense the disapproval of the hospital management and their reluctance to admit the destitute. She told the hospital authorities that you may consider this destitute as a drop in the Ocean and that if you ignore all drops there will be no Ocean.
Mother Teresa said, “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”
She also said, “Love begins by taking care of the closest ones, the ones at home.”
This is consistent with what former South Africa President, the late Nelson Mandela said “If each prosperous person can take care of the poor persons in the first layer of the inner circle of his family, the world will be a better place.”
Let us reflect on the implications of these two messages.
If someone close to you is unwanted, unloved, uncared for and forgotten by everybody, let love stem from the bottom of your heart to take care of the uncared person who may be living with you or working with you. Your love for unwanted relatives, colleagues and friends, who are close to you, will enable you to demonstrate the spirit of Mother Teresa.
This entails that you do not have to go to the streets to pick up a destitute. If a poor relative, colleague or friend suffers as unwanted, unloved, and uncared for, then play Mother Teresa at least in the life of that person.
When I was in Sudan as UNIDO Country Director, I saw a woman cleaning the office floor.
“How long have you been doing this job,” I asked her.
“For the past 18 years,” she said.
She spoke impeccable English, almost with British accent. I asked her to attend the weekly UN staff meetings. Soon thereafter, I requested her to apply for the post of Security Officer to fill a vacancy. The UN Chief of Security was reluctant to interview her, saying that a cleaning lady cannot be considered for the post of security officer.
I requested him to interview her along with other candidates.
She was the top performer. Within the next few months, I promoted her as the Security Officer and Front Desk Receptionist.
She is now running the Secretariat of South Sudan President Selva Keer.
My role in the life of Angelina was not an act of charity but of human justice.
So long as you realise that the best may not be good enough, it is good enough.
Dr Jebamalai Vinanchiarachi is former Principal Advisor to the Director General of UNIDO based in Vienna, Austria. He is currently Chairman of Experience Foundation. He was the Guest Speaker at the Mother Teresa Interfaith Meeting held on Saturday, November 21, 2015 at Catholic Church of Christ the King, Mount Roskill, Auckland. The above is an edited version of his speech at the event.
Member of Parliament Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Ethnic Communities Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-liga, Dr Jebamalai V (fourth to sixth from right) with Bishop Patrick Dunn and others at the Sixth Annual Mother Teresa Interfaith Meeting on November 21.
(Picture by Media Solutions Kiwi Limited)