The topic I want to consider tonight is that of what Mother Teresa has called “the most terrible poverty.” But, before I disclose what she describes as “the most terrible poverty”, I feel a disclaimer is in order. Mother Teresa was a very wise, remarkable woman. An inspiration to so many living, and a comfort to so many dying. Through her experiences she had occasion to ponder all the deepest complexities of life. And the wisdom she gleaned over the years was oftentimes shared with the public, to our benefit. If you did a search on the internet of “quotes by Mother Teresa”, they would number into the hundreds, maybe thousands. And, each of them would be worthy of framing. This is the reason for my disclaimer. You see, a person could have a blog devoted to nothing but sharing thoughts inspired by quotes of Mother Teresa and they would be busy writing for years. So, it might seem trite to do what I am about to do – draw out one quote in particular that is striking to me and talk about it. Because, how can I choose just one and simply leave the rest in silence? But, that’s what I’m going to do. However, I would encourage you to check out the many quotes by Mother Teresa which I guarantee will bring you inspiration. But, for now, the quote by Mother Teresa in which she identifies “the most terrible poverty”:
“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”
― Mother Teresa
I don’t remember when or why I stumbled across that quote, but when I did, it was burned into my mind like an ember and I was so grateful. It is a sentiment I have had pulsating through my veins ever since I can remember, but, wanting to live my life to help those in need, I pushed this thought to the side, choosing to focus on people with visible, physical needs. Even though my heart broke for people who I could sense simply felt alone, I convinced myself that trying to meet someone’s physical need was a more noble endeavor.
And then, here comes a powerful statement by Mother Teresa; Mother Teresa who, of all the people in the world that would know about the various forms and faces of suffering, it would be her. And, she identifies the most terrible poverty as loneliness and the feeling of being unloved. Wow. If you allow yourself to rest on that statement, it is almost overwhelming. Consider her, holding the sick and the dying, consider her hearing all their cries. And, to think, that the cries which moved her most were the cries of loneliness.
Do you realize what this means? That if you are searching out some good to do in this world, some way in which you can make a powerful impact in the life of another, there can be no greater act than for you to reach out to someone who appears to be alone. You know who they are. They are the people who sit alone at church or school events, probably in the back row. They are the people who aimlessly wander the aisles of the grocery store. They are children, they are young adults, they are middle-aged, they are elderly. They are everywhere and they need you, for they are suffering from the greatest form of poverty, the poverty of loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.
How do you reach out to these people? Because finding them is not the hard part – they’re there, you know they are. So, how do you reach out to these people? How do you meet this most desperate need? Well, there is one primary answer to that question and that is to listen. When you come across an opportunity to engage someone that appears to be lonely, embrace them with interest. Ask them questions that you sincerely want to know the answers to. Let them talk. People who are lonely have the television to listen to all day long. They don’t need to do more listening, they need to talk, to someone who will really hear them.
Anything else you should do? I’ll leave that up to you to decide. You’ll know when the time comes. But, if all you ever do for someone who suffers from this greatest of all forms of poverty is simply to listen to them, you will be fulfilling the deepest need of humanity. You don’t have to travel out of the realm of your everyday life and you don’t need to invest any money. You simply have to pause, show a little genuine interest, and then simply listen.
You, yes you, can change the world.
Until next time, thanks for reading.