To Mother Teresa, With Love
When I graduated from high school, I did this crazy thing. I went to India. Calcutta, India to be exact.
My reason for going on the trip was this. I had this dream of following Mother Teresa’s tiny footprints across the globe and serving in one of her homes for the dying. And I did.
I went in 1998, and I didn’t ever get to meet her. By that time, she had passed away. The closest I got to her was her tomb, but I felt her presence everywhere.
In my mind, Mother Teresa and India are inextricably connected. I once heard Deepak Chopra say that India is the kind of place that makes you believe in God. Because only God could keep a place like India together. And I think he was right.
During the trip, I stayed in an ancient YMCA infested with cockroaches so big that I swear they were carrying passports. It was like the whole place was full of these Kafka-esque travelers who got waylaid in a strange, existential purgatory, unable to find their way home.
And I felt a little bit of that myself.
I could write for days about the magic of India, but I’ll save it for a different time and just say this. I don’t know that I have ever, in all my life, felt so very alive. So completely aware and comprehending of the miraculous mystery of life. I felt it every second, in every cell of my entire body.
I could also write for days about the magic of Mother Teresa, because her life was, well, saintly. How she loved Jesus and saw him in the least of us. How she held out the cup to quench his thirst. How she washed his feet and gave him rest. A million times over. Then did it again the next day. And the day after that.
But when I was younger, on that trip, the part I liked the most about her was not all of this. It was the story of her as a young girl, on a train to Darjeeling, when she heard her calling from God. The calling that ultimately led to the Missionaries of Charity.
I like to imagine her in that moment the best. The moment just before the magic, when her greatness was still a tiny kernel of inspiration and desire, waiting for the chance to explode into life.
And maybe that’s also what I love most about India. It’s like compost, all mixed with garbage and decomposing matter, churning and teaming with life as the worms eat tunnels of air through the soggy mass.
It’s magic, sparking to life. The moment of inception.
It’s anticipation. The beauty of almost and not yet. Swirling in phantasmal, colorful beauty.
I’ll carry India inside me forever. And I’ll feel its pulse of life as long as I live. I like to think that I’m still following those tiny footprints around in my own way. Emulating something greater than myself in the best ways I know how. Waiting for my own little spark of greatness to ignite.
And in the meantime, I’ll raise my proverbial glass to the tiny saint, and to India.