By Shane Clairborne (1975- ) Christian author, activist, and speaker.
I was fascinated by the life of Mother Teresa. So, with childlike innocence, a few of my friends and I said, “Well, let’s just write her a letter, and let’s see if we can come learn from her.” So we wrote her a letter, and basically said, “We don’t know if you give internships over there in Calcutta, but we’d love to come work with you.” We sent it off. We waited. Week after week. We didn’t hear anything back, and then I got a little impatient, so I just started calling some nuns on the phone trying to get the number for Calcutta—some of them responded, “Is this a prank call?” Finally, I got hold of one of the sisters in the Bronx, in New York. I said, “Yes, I’m trying to reach Mother Teresa or someone in Calcutta.”
She says, “Well, I’m going to let you talk to the head nun here. Her name is Mother Superior.”
Awesome. Anyone with superior in their name, I’m into. So I talk to Mother Superior, and I tell her we’re trying to go to India. I think she just thought we were cute, so she said, “Okay, I’m going to give you a number. Don’t go giving it out.”
I called in the middle of the night so it would be a decent hour in Calcutta. All my friends are around. I’m expecting a polite greeting on the other line, like “Missionaries of Charity, how can we help you?” No such luck. I just hear this raspy old voice answer the phone. “Hello?”
I’m thinking I’ve got the wrong number—and I did my research, it was four dollars a minute—so okay, I’m going to make this quick. “I’m calling from the United States, we’re trying to get hold of Missionaries of Charity or Mother Teresa or someone over there, can you help me?”
And then I just hear, “Well, this is the Missionaries of Charity. This is Mother Teresa.”
I’m thinking, And I’m the Pope!
So I ask her, “Can we come work with you?” And she says, “Yeah! Come on out.” She didn’t have a southern accent, but you know.
I’m kind of without words, so I start asking what I think are logical questions. “Well, where are we going to sleep? What are we going to eat?” And I’m asking Mother Teresa—she didn’t worry a lot about that. She just says back, “Oh, God takes care of the lilies and the sparrows, God will take care of you. Just come.”
I didn’t know how you argue with that.
So we did. We went over to India. Many of us in our community, and I know many of you too, have been over there and worked. I worked every morning in the orphanage, I worked every evening in the home for the dying, and I saw things that have just formed me in so many ways. We would have these parties on the street where we would get all these kids together, and we would blow bubbles and turn flips and play with these kids that were eight and ten years old, just begging on the street to survive.
There was one day where one of those kids had a birthday. I’m thinking to myself, “I’ve got to get this kid something,” because he was one of the kids I’d grown really close to. I’m trying to decide what to get him, and it’s almost 120 degrees Fahrenheit. I decide, What better to get this kid than an ice cream cone? I have no idea how long it had been since he’d had ice cream, because when he gets it, he’s just stunned. He stares at this ice cream and just shakes.
And then his instinct is, This is too good to keep for myself. So he yells at all the other kids, and he says, “We’ve got ice cream!” He brings them all over: “Everybody gets a lick!” He goes down the line, “Your turn. Your turn. Your turn.” He goes full circle, and then finally he gets back to me, and he says, “Shane, you get a lick too.”
That little boy knew the secret of Jesus, which is, the best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them away and to share them.
I Timothy 6:18 — Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
I Thessalonians 2:8 — …Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.
Hebrews 13:16 — Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
O Lord, come to me and use my bread, silver, gold, and all that is mine. How well they are applied, if I spend them in your service. Amen.