I have always been both in awe of and also intimidated by Mother Teresa. It’s hard to imagine how a teacher-turned-nun from Macedonia could go from anonymity to becoming a world-famous Nobel Peace Prize winner by way of a humble life of service, serving the poorest of the poor in Kolkata. It seems that the more she sacrificially loved people one-by-one, the more exponentially her fame grew.
As a mother, one of my deepest desires is to model a life of service and purpose and to help each of my children realize their gifts and talents, which can be used to serve others.
Ironically, this giant of a woman is best known for her quotes about serving small. Loving one. Centering on those nearest. Her messages are focused and bite-sized. Not “save the whole world,” but “love your neighbor.” In fact, she simplifies the art of compassion so much that might seem childish and not serious or significant. No strategy or action plan is required, only respond in love. While I deeply desire to live a life full of purpose, it is in the daily grind of life that I can overlook the opportunities I readily have to serve people who are right in front of me.
There are days when I find it easy to love others, and I overflow with smiles and generosity. And some days I just can’t get over myself or past myself— I am consumed by my own cares, dreams, and worries. Not surprisingly, the longer I focus on myself I begin to feel that my life is without deep purpose. As a mother, one of my deepest desires is to model a life of service and purpose and to help each of my children realize their gifts and talents, which can be used to serve others.
I love reading quotes by Mother Teresa. Here are five nuggets of her wisdom, all of which are accessible to anyone and small enough to do now. Each inspiring quote and message can be applied today.
- “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” 🕊
Wow, this quote literally hits home. Peace on earth begins with peace at home. My first responsibility and privilege is to love my own family first. We should never discount the value and impact of loving our family members—immediate, extended, and chosen. Mother Teresa also exhorted the importance of love saying, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” How can I help my own kids show love to their family members? It’s important to also honor the ways in which my children want to demonstrate their love within the family.
- “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” 1️⃣
When we learn about the massive needs of the world and the vast numbers of people who are food insecure, it can feel impossible to make a difference. This quote focuses on the do-able. Feed one. Share a meal, invite someone to dinner, donate non-perishable foods to a food bank, pay it forward at a restaurant, give a gift card to a grocery store, drop off a bag of groceries to an elderly person, share the garden harvest, pay for someone’s groceries, send a care package…. Never overlook the power of helping one person, and especially to help someone who is nearby. The heart of this message applies to any needs—none of us can erase the pain and needs of a hundred people, however, we have many opportunities to respond to needs one by one.
- “Peace begins with a smile.” 🙂
So simple and so true. Most interactions can start off on the right foot with a smile. Mother Teresa also said, “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” When was the last time you smiled? Did you share the gift of a smile with anyone today?
- “Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” ☝️
No matter what organizations you are a part of, this holds true. Don’t wait to be led. When I see a need, I can choose to respond. I don’t need to rely on making a charitable donation to another organization to serve others well—remember, feed just one. Every day we can see the needs around us and respond in love. Government programs, civic organizations, and religious charities often do good work. And, individuals can respond quicker and more accurately when we see someone in need in front of us.
- “The fruit of love is service, which is compassion in action.” 💖
I love how she joins together feelings and actions. If you think about it for a while, it’s really hard to truly feel love without acting on it and serving those you feel love towards. Compassion is linked to actions that benefit others. We can’t simply feel love and have compassion; these feelings must be actualized. As a mom, it’s important to help my children express their feelings of love and compassion in their own unique ways. One gives hugs, the other expresses love in words, one writes encouraging notes, the other offers extra help around the home. Mother Teresa also reminds us, “Do ordinary things with extraordinary love.” We love by doing.
Love your family, feed one, smile, don’t wait for leaders, serve others. The great needs of the world can be met by each of us—one action at a time, one person at a time, one opportunity at a time.
These are important lessons for children to learn, too. Too often adults discount the significance of young people’s involvement in helping others. And yet, many (of the same?) adults are dismayed when young people appear to be self-absorbed and don’t show concern for others. If a child or teen’s desire to help others is dismissed or not valued, it shouldn’t be surprising if they stop caring about issues.
Mother Teresa’s wisdom directs our focus to the significance of the small efforts to love, to feed, to smile, to serve. Every time a child sees a need and chooses to help someone, he or she is living a life of compassion. Daily choices and small actions are keys to peaceful families and communities. When young people voice concern for people in need, affirm their values and assist them in taking appropriate action.
Start a conversation about serving small in your family or another group setting. Download this FREE resource that includes 20 quotes by Mother Teresa. Post a quote to inspire. Respond to her ideas and get involved. “Do you want to do something beautiful for God? There is a person who needs you. This is your chance.” Mother Teresa