Mother Teresa became Saint Teresa on September 4, 2016.
It was 1996 - a hot summer day in Calcutta, India when I paid a visit to Mother Teresa at the Missionaries of Charity. As the Regional Manager for the Australian Trade Commission, the visit was part of my outreach to civil society, government officials, and the business community. We briefly discussed the work of her charity and what I was doing in Calcutta. We took a brief tour and later stood in the corridor. In that moment, she held my hand tightly.... and all of a sudden I felt a unique sensation flowing through my body that till today I can't really explain properly. A sensation of utter joy of love, compassion, mercy, greatness, and dignity of every human person - irrespective of their race, religion and nationality. Among all the noise about Mother Teresa - positive and negative - this will be my memory of Mother Teresa.
It was Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Maryland, USA. As the CVS doors closed behind me, I shifted my bag to my left hand, fished my keys from my right pocket and scanned the parking lot for my car. That's when I noticed her at the edge of the lot, picking up trash that someone had tossed to the curb. Gathering each item--fast-food wrappers, napkins, a straw stuck in a plastic lid, a half-crushed liter bottle. Starting to walk them to a bin on the sidewalk. She was in her late 60s or early 70s.
Nothing heroic; but even a small gesture like this can be contagious, and it reminded me of the stories I heard from my mother about my grandfather who would walk a mile to find a trash can. So I felt an instant urge to acknowledge her small act. A gesture we often forget.
"It is people like you who make this world a better place," I told her. I was unable to leave--so I walked toward her and held her hand. I didn't realize the power of this one simple sentence and a small touch. She was overwhelmed with emotions. "You made my Easter," - she said while laughing and crying at the same time. "You made my Easter as well," I replied, as I remember the power of small gestures and the power of touch.
As we are all adapting to the newest smartphones apps and latest mode of communications, I am still trying to hold on to some old habits - like reading the print version of the Washington Post and convincing our 20-year-old son that parental hugs will help him to improve his college grades! It just might be true as experts now say that the right kind of touch can lower your blood pressure, improve your outlook, and make you better at math, and even make you more productive at work.