Mother Teresa, the Wino and Me

I will never forget the day I met Mother Teresa. More than that, I will never forget what she taught me about loving other people, especially the poor.

She wasn't nearly as famous in the late seventies as she is now, but she already had hundreds of thousands of admirers around the world. I was the editor of a Catholic newspaper in Rhode Island and when I heard she would be speaking in Boston I decided to go.

I arrived at the auditorium early to get a good seat, but I discovered that I'd already been granted a seat in the press section. As I waited for the lecture to begin, I passed the time by chatting with another reporter, who turned out to be, like Mother Teresa, a native of Albania. As we were talking, a priest walked over and said to my com­panion, "Mother Teresa would be happy to meet you right now."

With uncharacteristic boldness, I rose to my feet and

tagged along. So did a handful of other reporters. We were ushered into a room where a little old lady wrapped in a blue-and-white sari was chatting with the Cardinal Humberto Medeiros, then archbishop of Boston.

I couldn't believe how tiny she was. But what I remem­ber most is her smiling, wrinkled face and the way she bowed to me, as if I were royalty, when I was introduced.

She greeted everyone that way. I thought that if Jesus Christ walked into the room, she would greet him in exactly the same manner. The way she did it conveyed a message that said, "You are holy."

But meeting her wasn't as memorable as what she taught me about loving people. Until that day, I had always thought of charity as simply being nice to people. For Mother Teresa it was much more.

During her talk, she told us how she and the members of her order, the Missionaries of Charity, seek to recognize Christ in the poorest of the poor.

She told a story of how one of the sisters had spent an entire day bathing the wounds of a dying beggar who was brought to them from the streets of Calcutta. Mother Teresa's voice dropped to a whisper as she told the hushed auditorium that, in reality, the nun had been bathing the wounds of Jesus.

She insisted that Christ tests the love of his followers by hiding in grotesque disguises to see if we can still see him.

A few nights later, I was leaving my office after dark when a drunk accosted me. He was dirty and ragged and smelled bad.

"Did the bus leave yet?" He asked.

The only bus that ever stopped on that corner was a van that carried street people to a soup kitchen.

"You've missed it," I told him. Then I thought about Mother Teresa. I didn't exactly buy the idea that this old

bum was God in disguise, but I could see a person in front of me who needed a meal. The soup kitchen wasn't very far out of my way.

"C'mon, I'll drive you," I said, hoping that he wouldn't throw up in the car.

He looked surprised, delighted and a little stunned. He studied me with bleary eyes. His next words floated to me on the smell of cheap wine and they seemed to confirm everything Mother Teresa had taught me.

"Say," he said, "you must know me."

Robert F. Baldwin

From Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul. Deerfield, Florida: Health Communications, Inc, 2000, p. 193-195.

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