Have you ever had your hands held by a saint? I have. She held my hands in hers as she spoke words of kindness and encouragement. I was only ten.
Earlier, I watched as she climbed the steps to the church podium. When she stood behind it she disappeared; her small stature overpowered by the massive wooden structure. The priest, embarrassed, told one of his Irish jokes to distract the crowd, while others quickly scrambled to find a stool. Finally, when her head peered over the top of the imposing platform, she beamed with a warm welcome.
There was a screen behind her flashing pictures of her work in India; I could sense her enthusiasm. Even with a heavy Albanian accent, the crowd was attentive and listened intently as she took them from infectious laughter to a hushed silence.
When church concluded, we headed for the double doors leading to the immense lobby overflowing with people. But our guest speaker stood in the doorway; she caught my eye. She was the same height as me! Reaching out she cupped my hands in hers. She spoke words of kindness. But what caught my attention was her massive, calloused hands. They did not match her small frame! As I looked down, her sandal-ed feet stunned me as well! I must have been staring, because she bent down to catch my eyes. Smiling, she spoke words of encouragement; her compassion holding my attention.
A man, who seemed to be in charge said, “Mother, I need you to come over here. I want you to meet someone.” Without taking her gaze off me, she nodded, but continued to speak with me. When he again prompted her, she finished what she was saying, excused herself, and turned to follow.
As she left I wondered how she stayed warm in the Montana weather. She carried no coat and her light white dress with the blue trim was not like the black habits the other nuns wore. I watched her disappear into the land of giants.
When I reflect back on my encounter with Mother Teresa, I am stuck by her attentiveness to one child. A child who could not provide her with time, work, or money. She was compelled to share a personal message with me, despite the distractions vying for her attention. While talking, she did not look around: she gave me, a child, her full undivided attention.
Often I think of her humble demeanor: When I am in the lobby of a church having a conversation: do I give the person in front of me my full attention? Do they do the same?
It is a gesture of respect. A lesson that has stuck with me.
What about you? Do you give those you converse with your full, undivided attention? Or are you distracted by your own thoughts or tasks that must be done?
And the children, do you notice them? Or are they merely distractions under your feet?
Saint Teresa of Calcutta lived what Jesus taught. Not only did she bring little children to Him, she herself opened her heart.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
“Truly I tell you,” He said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3