A testament made ages back by Nelson Henderson, a simple farmer in the Swan River Valley region of Manitoba, Canada, made him famous. Henderson philosophised: "The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit." About forty years back I read in "Quotable Quotes" department of Readers' Digest a similar testimony to generosity. The quotable quote was: "The octogenarian perhaps made an attempt to translate the meaning of life when he planted a banyan tree which knowing full well he will never sit under." The octogenarian was a 'giver' as was the farmer Nelson Henderson.
Another 'giver' was Mother Teresa. Nineteen years after her death she was officially bestowed the title "Saint" by Pope Francis on Sunday (September 04) morning at the Vatican. One of the 20th century's most visible religious figures in her distinctive blue-trimmed white sari, Late Mother Teresa was not present at the function, but those who attended her canonisation ceremony felt her spirit around them. The canonisation was broadcast live on the Vatican's television station and streamed online through a Vatican website. Tens of thousands of people gathered at St. Peter's Square on Sunday, along with government delegations and representatives of different countries.
Before Mother Teresa became a saint, she was a nun, a nurse and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She was born Agnes Gonxhe Bojaxhiu on August 26 in 1910 to Albanian parents in Skopje, then part of the Ottoman Empire and now the capital of Macedonia and passed away on September 05, 1997, at Kolkata in India.
The tapestry of Mother Teresa's life was studded with her personal sacrifices for upholding the humanity. She came from a wealthy family in Albania, but she spent many years living among the homeless. She was a brilliant and a selfless personality. She was the model of holiness. She fought to defend human life. She sided with those unborn, those abandoned, and those discarded. Her campaigns against birth control and abortion angered feminists. But she uncompromisingly petitioned against human attempts to murder the unborn. Mother Teresa earned prominence and accolades over a lifetime spent on working with the poor and the sick. She was both mother and teacher. By personally nursing orphans, lepers, and AIDS patients she mothered a revolution that is inspiring countless youths who are serving as volunteers to care for the hapless.
The revolution that Mother Teresa started with 12 nuns now numbers more than 5,800 people in 139 countries. Her army of nuns, brothers, priests and volunteers continues her work of ministering to the world's least privileged, those she called "the poorest of the poor." They are marching on the path that she unselfishly showed-the path toward understanding, compassion and love. She ventured into arenas where religious figures dared not. She made her voice heard before the powers of this world. Her selflessness and humility made her a dazzling icon of humanity. A cover story of Time magazine in December 1975 acknowledged Mother Teresa as one of the world's "living saints." When told that she had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she said, "I am unworthy."
In spite of all her divinity and acclaim Mother Teresa, a human being, sometimes perhaps erred and was not without critics. Some had questioned the medical standards adopted by her Missionaries of Charity. Others, like Dr. Aroup Chatterjee, have harshly criticised her for converting the dying into Christianity and for introducing what they call a "cult of suffering" that was prevalent in some of the homes run by her missionaries. Critics even called her a zealot and a fanatic.
No great man in the history was above criticism. Criticism is universal and sometimes essential. In many instances, critics feel threatened by the competence and attractiveness of a great man, so they try to level the playing field. They have a strong unmet need that is not being satisfied. They want to make you look bad so as to advance their own position. They enjoy intimidating you so they can feel powerful. Winston Churchill likened criticism to pain in the human body---an unpleasant experience that is necessary for growth and learning.
Mother Teresa has affected eternity and her influence on humanity will never stop. She has shown us by her own deeds that there is no person in the world who is not capable of doing much more than he or she thinks he or she can. She has taught us to flower smiles on sad faces and be kind to everyone we meet. She believed more in practising than preaching.
Our prime purpose in this life should be to help others, to plant trees so that our sons and grandsons can pick some flowers and fruits from them and enjoy their cooling shades on a summer day. If we can't help our fellow humans, at least we should not hurt them. In today's restless world we should inspire ourselves by Mother Teresa's lights. If we cannot change the world, we should try to change the world of at least one person. You and I may never be a saint or a Nobel laureate like Mother Teresa, but anyone of us can be a hero or a heroine if we do the right thing over and over even though no one is there to witness our jobs, like the octogenarian who was silently planting a banyan tree which he knew he will never sit under. We should believe 'Forgiveness is divine' and we should practise 'giving' remembering that: 'An apple given is much more enjoyable than taken.'
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