How to be as good as Mother Teresa – without actually trying

Mother Teresa is Number One on Gallup’s List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century.  In the 1980s, early in my recovery from drugs and alcohol, it seemed that I and my cohorts, now that we had renounced being rock stars, we all wanted to become Mother Teresas.  However, after more months clean time, we mostly resigned ourselves, at least temporarily, to being shop assistants, mine employees, construction workers and drug counsellors, although our secret aspiration to spectacular, sacrificial service to humankind never totally extinguished.

These days, with decades of sober living under my belt, I still believe that what Mother Teresa did was truly great but, at the same time, I can see it that, given the circumstances, it was not quite as extraordinary as I once thought.

Her great deed

In her address to the National Prayer Breakfast sponsored by the US Senate and House of Representatives, 3 February 1993 (, she said:

…man whom we picked up from the drain, half eaten with worms; we brought him to the home. “I have lived like an animal in the street, but I am going to die like an angel, loved and cared for.” And it was so wonderful to see the greatness of a man who could speak like that, who could die like that, without blaming anybody, without cursing anybody, without comparing anything. Like an angel – that is the greatness of our people.  And that is why we believe what Jesus has said, “I was hungry, I was naked, I was homeless, I was unwanted, unloved, uncared for, and you did it to me.”

Think about it: supposing you had such an experience.  Suppose you did something that caused such completely unexpected gratitude – that produced such surprising joy – that was so obviously staggeringly good.  What would you do?  What could you do – other than try again!  Repeat the deed.

No one can resist

Need more proof?  Suppose your dying person turned out to have been a great man, a remarkable saint of a person.  And supposing you were convinced of his importance to the world.   In that case, good or bad, righteous or unrighteous, minister or mafia, who could possibly refrain from repeating the deed?  I’d be out on the street ASAP seeking another dying pauper.  Think about it.  Think Oskar Schindler (  Think Will and Jewels Taylor of Geraldton WA who had a sovereign deliverance from drugs on their lounge room carpet and spent the next year dragging drug addicts from the streets of Geraldton onto that same carpet.  (Don’t scoff.  Many a Geraldton addict got born again on that very rug!  You can hear their testimonies today at the Sun City Assembly Of God.)

What distinguishes Mother Teresa is not that she devoted her life to such good deeds.  You would too if what happened to her happened to you.  What sets her apart is that first loving action, picking up the dying man in the first place.

Instructions for you and me

So here’s how to be as good as Mother Teresa without actually trying.  Do something, anything right, even though nobody else seems to be doing it.  Do it when least expected.  Do it in love NOT in protest, NOT to try to make others be good.  Don’t do it because everybody else ought to do but isn’t.  It need not be a “big thing”: in fact, maybe small is better.  But do it in love for someone who might be unloved or unlovable.  If possible make it unselfish BUT, in any case, don’t worry about your motives.  Do not expect gratitude.  Do not expect anything.  Just DO it.  Once!  Now!

And see what happens.  Don’t quit until you know the consequences.  Be patient.

If you make a mistake, God will let you know.

Regarding gratitude: if you don’t get it, don’t be disappointed.  Jesus healed ten lepers and only one turned to thank Him.  How can you expect more than Jesus?  You may get something more important, such as wisdom.  It’s best not to anticipate anything.  Don’t expect: wait and see.  Watch and pray.  And, if God wills, let me know.  I don’t expect calls – but I would love to hear from you.

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