Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 27, 2009

Kolkata Lessons

Kolkata, India

We have one more day of service at Mother Teresa’s homes before we begin our journey home. The past week has been one of the most difficult yet one of the very best weeks of my life. The things I have experienced have challenged me in many ways. These are just a few of the lessons I have learned while serving in Mother Teresa’s homes for the least of these in Kolkata.

K = Kindness | Show kindness to others (Proverbs 3:3-4). People don’t expect it and don’t always deserve it, but show kindness anyway. I was very impressed by a couple of volunteers who showed great kindness to the poor within the walls of Prem Dan. However, when leaving Prem Dan (which means “gift of love”) they argued with a poor rickshaw driver because they felt he was asking ten cents more than they were willing to pay. They failed to show the same kindness to the poor in the marketplace. Mother Teresa said, “I prefer to make a mistake because I am too kind than to perform miracles without any kindness.”

O = Observation | We must learn to bring the blurry things in our peripheral vision into sharper focus. It’s easy for us to be so focused on where we are going that we forget to notice the things that are happening to the left and to the right of us. Our bus route to Prem Dan takes us past blocks of poor people who live on the sidewalks in makeshift shelters. Mother Teresa’s charge to the Missionaries of Charity was to look for Jesus in His distressing disguises. We must learn to look for Jesus among the least of these in the worst of places.

L = Love | I have enjoyed serving with volunteers from all over the world. I have made many new friends. However, I have been puzzled by one volunteer who never smiles and who is unkind to everyone. He rebuffs every attempt at conversation and often barks at others, yet he works very hard. Yesterday, at Nirmal Hriday, he stood near me with a scowl on his face. Ironically, he was standing next to a photo of Mother Teresa with these words inscribed beneath the photo: “It is not how much we do, but how much love we put into what we do that matters.” Mother Teresa said, “We can work until we drop. We can work excessively. If what we do is not connected to love, however, our work is useless in God’s eyes.”

K = Keeping | One of my African-American preacher friends from my seminary days observed, “Most people work to get all they can, then can all they get, and then sit on the can.” I have read statistics that say that most people spend ninety-seven cents of every dollar they earn on themselves. We must stop keeping so much for ourselves and learn to live on less so that we can give more to the least of these. Mother Teresa said, “Whoever is dependent on his or her money and worries about it, is truly a poor person. If that person places his or her money at the service of others, then the person becomes rich, very rich indeed.”

A = Act | My grandfather used to tell me, “It’s good to be good, but you should also be good for something.” It’s not enough to be moved by the plight of the poor, we must give practical expression to our concern. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the priest and the Levite both “saw” a man left for dead by the side of the road but did nothing to help. However, when a traveling Samaritan saw this same man, he felt compassion and was moved to help the man. Mother Teresa said, “It is very possible that you will find human beings, surely very near you, needing affection and love. Do not deny them these. Show them, above all, that you sincerely recognize that they are human beings, that they are important to you.”

T = Touch | It’s probably safe to say that we are all very selective in who and what we touch and in who and what we allow to touch us. This week I have learned to touch and to hold people who are broken and who long, above all, for the warmth of human contact. Mother Teresa said, “As far as I am concerned, the greatest suffering is to feel alone, unwanted, unloved. The greatest suffering is also having no one, forgetting what an intimate, truly human relationship is, not knowing what it means to be loved, not having family or friends.” Every touch I invested this week yielded great dividends, not only for the recipients but for me as well. Every person I have touched has touched me.

A = Attention | This week I have been challenged moment by moment to be attentive to the needs of others, especially those who cannot do the most basic things for themselves. I have shaved faces chiseled and eroded by years of hardships. I have fed people who cannot feed themselves. I have changed men who can no longer control their bodily functions. I have carried men who cannot walk and walked beside men who cannot walk unassisted. Mother Teresa observed, “There are thousands – millions – of people who die for lack of bread. There are thousands – millions – of human beings who grow weak for lack of a little love because they would like to be recognized, even if just a little.”


  1. I just felt it in my heart & tried to share with you, Mother Teresa did not store up for her selves…… Matt: 6:19-21.

    Mother Teresa sent her money to heaven, through served the people! Matt: 25:40.

    You guys know much better than I do & you are practicing your faith according the Holy Scriptures.
    According the Holy Scriptures, God has gives each of us some task, John 5:17, we should join with Jesus, because He is working with Father, when son doing works, labors should show more actions!

    Here is a small story, you may like it.

    A father asked his little boy to collect the harvest from the field, and father went his way. Little boy obeyed his father commands and he went to the field and stars work. But sunny day, and work so hire, that is why it was difficult for the small boy accomplish a small corner of the field.

    Than father arrived the fields and watched His little kid’s efforts, the father was appreciated with His son. He realized his son’s obedience. Than asked his son & says this, boy, come home, tomorrow we will hire many labors and work to gather, come and rest!

    1. God is the Father.

    2. World/ non believers are the fields.

    3. We are small boy.

    Mortuza Biswas.

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