This Famous Person Game - June 2014
by Mike McLeod
Sherri Hardrick Sutton and Ted Carlton of Utah correctly identified a young Mother Teresa.
Everyone recognizes the name of Mother Teresa, and all know of her lifelong service to the poorest of the poor in India and to many throughout the world. Born on Aug. 26, 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was of Albanian descent. Her father Nikola died mysteriously when she was about eight. Her mother Drana instilled in Agnes the principle of charity from an early age. She always invited people to eat with them—family members and strangers.
"My child, never eat a single mouthful unless you are sharing it with others," Drana taught her daughter.1
“If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
Early in her life, Agnes decided to dedicate herself to serving the needy. At the age of 18, she joined the order of the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland and took her name to be Mother Teresa. She was soon sent to India to teach in a Catholic high school for girls from very poor families.
In 1946, while traveling on a train, Mother Teresa reported hearing the voice of Jesus Christ saying, "I want Indian Nuns, Missionaries of Charity, who would be my fire of love amongst the poor, the sick, the dying and the little children.”2 She followed this direction after being released from her order and walked into the slums of Calcutta.
Mother Teresa began by teaching the children of the poorest by drawing letters in the dirt. This grew into a school. She also created a hospice for the dying poor, no matter their religious affiliation, so they could die with dignity in the care and love of a concerned fellow human being. When reading this, don’t imagine new red brick school buildings and hospital facilities with clean sheets. Out of necessity, Mother Teresa often used dilapidated, rundown, and/or abandoned buildings when she began her work in Calcutta. She and those of her order also lived in abject poverty.
“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”
Mother Teresa. (Photo courtesy of and © 1986 Túrelio, Wikimedia-Commons / CC-BY-SA licensed.)
From her humble beginning in the slums of Calcutta, Mother Teresa gathered followers and donors from throughout the world. She refused steady government help, but she had no problem seeking it—in her own way—when it was needed. This instance of her receiving government assistance was reported in USA Today: “Former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos recalls how stunned and surprised he was when Mother Teresa and two nuns showed up at his home, without an appointment, at about 9 p.m. on a Sunday evening in February 1989. Mother Teresa wanted to convert a particular vacant building into a homeless center.
"‘I've come to talk to you about the work of God,’ Mother Teresa told him. Agnos promised to investigate the building first thing in the morning. She said, ‘The work of God cannot wait until tomorrow morning.’
“So they traipsed off into the wintry darkness to inspect the building right then and confirm that yes, it was city-owned and available.
“‘She is the only person that I have ever been around where I have sensed I have been in a holy presence,’ Agnos said.”3
This diminutive woman clad in a blue-and-white sari changed the world with simple acts of service that grew into orphanages, refugee centers, clinics, soup kitchens, and maternity, hospice and HIV/AIDS homes scattered among more than 130 countries in the world. This required a great talent for organization and logistics, which are talents not often considered when Mother Teresa comes to mind.
Through her selfless acts of charity, Mother Teresa became a legend without seeking glory. When told that she won the Nobel Prize in 1979, she responded that she was not worthy. Then she requested the money for the Nobel Prize banquet be donated to feed the poor Christmas dinner. When the Pope gave her the limousine he used during a trip to India, she raffled it off to help the needy.4
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”
On Sept. 5, 1997, Mother Teresa passed away after suffering from heart and lung problems for many years. The world mourned.
Her work continues today, and those wishing to assist in her legacy may visit www.motherteresa.org.
“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”
“Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.”
“One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.”
1, 2 Biography.com.
3, 4 Lori Sharn, USA TODAY. “Mother Teresa dies at 87,” Sept. 1997.
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