Do small things with great love

Mother Teresa was born on August 27, 1910 in the small village of Skopje, Albania (now part of Yugoslovia) and was named Ganxhe Agnes Bojaxhiu (phonetically: ganja agnes bojaksu). She was the youngest of 3 children, and her father was a successful grocer in the village. Her family was Catholic and attended church regularly, gave money to the church, and often invited poor people to the home to eat with the family. The family prayed together everyday and yearly would make pilgrimages to holy shrines.
Agnes’ father considered education to be very important and would often help his children with their schoolwork. Agnes thought the world of her father, and the entire village loved him. It was tragic when eight-year-old Agnes’ father suddenly died. The life of her family changed dramatically. They had very little money now and her mother worked hard sewing for other people to make ends meet. But, somehow, they always scraped together enough to continue to help others and frequently had guests at their dinner table.
When Sister Teresa left the convent to begin her work, some of her former students wanted to join her to help her. The Vatican sanctioned the establishment of the Missionaries of Charity and Sister Teresa became Mother Teresa and mother superior of the girls who joined her. The Sisters of Charity wore white saris — a long Indian dress made of wrap-around cloth. The nuns sewed a blue border on the cloth to identify them to others.
Mother Teresa first went to an alleyway in the middle of the slum. She moved the garbage out of the way and invited the street children to come and learn with her. She used a stick and wrote in the dirt to teach them the alphabet. There were five students at first. People saw what she was doing and someone found a table and chair for her alleyway school. Later, someone gave her a cupboard. Everyday, the school grew and more and more children came.
But Mother Teresa needed a place for her and her young nuns to stay. In the middle of the slum, she was offered a tiny house in very bad shape — the floor was caved in and it was filled with insects and mice. A wealthy Muslim man heard of Mother Teresa’s good work and the man gave her some land that had several houses on it.
“Oh my!”, said Mother Teresa. “This is much too big–what will I do with so much room?”
This turned out not to be such a big problem, however, as the houses were soon full of nuns taking care of sick people who had no place else to go.
The streets of Calcutta were dangerous, dirty, and crowded. People were infected with cholera and leprosy, dysentery and other diseases that were fatal in most cases. Mother Teresa and her group of helpers went among them every day with courage and conviction to do what they could to ease their pain.
One day, Mother Teresa came across a young woman in the gutter of the street, directly in front of one of the Calcutta hospitals. The woman was so ill that she did not notice or care that the rats and cockroaches were eating her feet. Mother picked up the woman and carried her into the hospital. She told the nurse inside:
This woman is dying. She needs help.
But the nurse replied:
Sorry, no room for her here. She is poor and can’t pay and we can’t save her anyway, so we can’t waste a bed on her. Now please move along.
Mother Teresa’s heart broke as she carried the woman back to the street, and there she stayed with the woman for hours until she died. Mother Teresa was angry and she felt like no one should have to die alone, forgotten and in despair in the dirty street.
Mother Teresa found an old abandoned hotel just behind a Hindu Temple and started bringing in the people the hospital refused to admit. They were so sick that she knew there was no hope of survival for them, but she felt compelled to make a place they could come to die. It was a horrible undertaking as the people who filled the rooms had open wounds covered with maggots or had parts of their bodies missing due to disease. The Hindus from the Temple did not want these people close to them and threw garbage and rocks at Mother Teresa.
One day, Mother Teresa saw a man lying on the steps of the Hindu Temple — very sick. She learned he was one of the Hindu priests and no one at the temple would touch him for fear of getting his disease. So they put him on the steps to die. Mother Teresa picked him up and took him to the old hotel where she cared for him until he died a peaceful death. The Hindus at the temple saw what she had done and never gave her any trouble again.
In 1955, Mother Teresa opened the Children’s House. Its main purpose was to house, feed, clothe, abandoned and unwanted children from the streets. Many infants were left on her doorstep.
All the hospitals in Calcutta soon started sending all the unwanted babies to the Children’s House. Many were premature and ill and many died, but many were nursed back to health. All the children at Children’s House were educated by the nuns. Donations to the children began to come in. When the girls became old enough to marry, they required a dowry, as is the Indian custom. Mother Teresa arranged it. When the boys came of age, Mother Teresa would elicit donations of a plot of land in order that the boy and his wife could move out of the dangerous city.
She attended many weddings of the children from the Children’s House and proudly represented their family. Mother Teresa brought hope to thousands of children who would have had none without her.