May 22, 2013
Written by Joe Pisani
Wednesday, 01 December 2010 14:16
Somewhere in my distant past — so distant the memory has just about faded — I wanted to change the world. Back then, making a difference was more important to me than making money.
However, “maturity” along with peer pressure and the need to succeed according to the world’s standards, snuffed out that idealism, and I eventually considered it nothing more than a “phase in my life” that ended when I got through adolescence, sometime in my 30s.
So when my daughters tell me they want to “make a difference” and change the world, I shrug, I snicker and I try to discourage them. I tell them they need to get with the program and think more about the critical issues like paying rent, making car payments, having health insurance and saving for retirement (theirs and mine).
Besides, changing the world can be dangerous. Haven’t they heard about cholera in Haiti and dengue fever in India?
When all else fails, I offer them a compromise and say, “Get it out of your system so you can start your career and become part of the establishment with the rest of us working stiffs.” You see, I’ve learned to love my middle-class values — the perpetual pursuit of wealth, of success, of titles, and of everything else that’s ultimately superficial. But they don’t listen to me any more than I listened to my father. One daughter has worked in Haiti and Kenya, another in Peru and another went to India recently with a group of young people led by Fr. Paul Check, who goes to Calcutta every year to teach moral theology to Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.
What she encountered was worlds apart from Southern Connecticut. Entire families were living on the city streets. There were group homes crowded with lepers, orphans, the sick and the poor. In the middle of the night, the nuns went out to pick up the dying and destitute and take them back to their infirmary to care for them.
When I saw pictures of my daughter Julie working with dying people and amputees, hugging them and feeding them, I felt a bit guilty for trying to stop her.
One woman got excited when she saw the tattoo on my daughter’s arm written in Hindi that said “Great love,” which referred to Mother Teresa’s words: “In this life we cannot do great things; we can only do small things with great love.”
Mother, who committed her life to caring for the weak and helpless, once said, “You will gain much to know the poor; they will give you much more than you give them.”
Sometimes I have moments of self-reflection when I wonder whether I used my talents for the good of others. Have I changed the world in some small way?
All around us, people are physically and spiritually deprived, and Mother Teresa had a simple formula for helping them: “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
And that advice works in Calcutta or Connecticut.
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