As I See It: Don’t Wait for Leaders

There is no doubt to anyone who has ever lived in our community that the people of western North Carolina are as kind and generous as one would find anywhere. We don’t have to look far to find a great number of people and organizations that give of themselves in the service of others. It is in these troubled times that we fortunate to have so many that are willing to reach out to help those in need.But as the need continues to grow, we all can easily fall prey to spending more time in discussing issues, convening committees, and assembling task forces to study the issues at hand and the problems that we face.

As well intentioned as all this may be, it in many cases does little to help those we strive to serve. It is easier to talk and strategize than it is to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. In so many cases those who call for assistance cannot wait for us to come up with the great plans and big answers to what they need now. Studies certainly have their place, but not when it interferes with those who are hurting, sick, alone, and frightened. I can’t believe that anyone whose heart is in making sure that we all do everything we can for those we have the privilege of serve wants that, but it happens to us all the same.

There is a well-known story of Mother Teresa (Saint Teresa of Calcutta) that happened some thirty years ago in Calcutta. Late one evening her sisters came to her concerned that there was no bread for the next day for them to feed the hundreds who would be at their door in a few short hours. Mother, undaunted by the news, told her sisters “Earnestly pray and go to bed, tomorrow, if need be, we will beg on the streets to feed the poor.” Very early the next morning some schools in the area were closed unexpectedly, and sent truckloads of bread, that were designated for the schools, to the Missionaries of Charity.

I have known of this story for some time, but just recently was I made aware of the second part of the story. I knew well about the lack of bread, and the unexpected delivery of the bread being delivered with no explanation of why the schools were suddenly closed. But what I didn’t know was that Mother had told them if the bread did not come they would go out on the streets and beg for the poor themselves.

What struck me in hearing this story again after so many years was not the arrival of the bread, which many, including myself, would see as a miracle, but the fact that Mother would not send them away hungry to beg on their own. She and her sisters would beg on their behalf. Mother was not going to convene a task force on hunger, send her staff, or “see what she could do.”

This tiny (less than five feet tall) Albanian nun who had been visited by kings, queens, princes, princesses, and presidents, and who had won the Nobel Peace Prize, was willing and planning to go out and beg for food for those she believed that God had entrusted in her care. No committees, no speeches, no assessment of the need, she knew people were hungry and that was all that mattered.

Mother Teresa had been known to say “Don’t wait for leaders. Do it yourself, person to person.” While others may have met over breakfast or lunch to discuss the hunger of those outside their doors, Mother and her sisters were prepared to do what was necessary to feed those who were hungry that morning.

There is no better example of service to all of us who want to reach those who are less fortunate and the salient question is how far are we willing to go to help someone that we know of who is in need of our help?

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