catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 6, Num 13 :: 2007.06.29 — 2007.07.13


Suffering and love


"Instead of death and sorrow, let us bring peace and joy to the world."

That is a quote from Mother Theresa, person in history who I have, by far, the most respect for. Having served in several of her homes in Calcutta, India, I have seen first hand the extent to which her love and service for the poorest of the poor has gone.

On my second day in Calcutta, the first time I was there, I worked at Khaligat, Mother Theresa's Home for the Dying and Destitute. I was so nervous. I remember reading through the servant team handbook before my trip, and reading the descriptions about the different homes in which I could volunteer and thinking that of all of them, that would be the one that would be most out of my comfort zone. And it wasn't necessarily the fact that they were elderly and poor, because I had dealt with that in Haiti and had an idea of what to expect. It was the fact that they were dying that made me nervous. I was afraid. I didn't know what I could do, and was afraid I would make a mistake and hurt someone or do something wrong.

As you walk in to the building you are on the men's side of the building. Rows of beds line the two walls; with an upper and lower level, and the beds are typically filled with patients who are destitute and have been found dying on the streets, or at the train stations, or just about anywhere you can imagine.  They are in desperate need of every human necessity; food, clothes, medical care, and shelter.  Some die before they arrive in the homes, some are there for just a few days, sometimes years, and some even become well enough to leave again.

The other side of the building is the women's side. It is the same way. As a volunteer you spend time doing laundry, cleaning, doing dishes, serving food, distributing medications, bathing patients, changing beds, and doing just about anything else you can to help. But my favorite times were the quiet moments where I was able to sit with patients for a long time and just be there with them, holding their hand, or putting my arm around them, or simply listening to them talk. Sometimes I understood, and sometimes I didn't, but it didn't really matter. They just needed to know that in that moment, they were not alone and that someone cared. It's as simple as that.

Mother Theresa said that "we can do no great things, only small things with great love" and that is so much of what my experience in Calcutta was. I didn't do anything great. I simply loved as best as I could, and hope that God used that and will continue to use me in the future. Isn't that what he wants of us all? To love Him with all of our hearts, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

The photographs in the slide show were taken toward the end of my first four months in Calcutta. The memory of the woman laying curled up tightly in a ball would have forever stayed with me, even without a photograph to remember her by. She couldn't see, and didn't like anyone to touch her; anyone that is except for her friend Notorani who was always sitting on the bed next to her. I spent many hours with Notorani; massaging her legs and feet. From time to time her neighbor would yell out and Notorani would reach across the aisle to simply touch this woman on the hand, and she would instantly go quiet. Just knowing that her friend was there was enough to calm her. I was constantly amazed by these two friends. I was able to make these portraits the last day that I was there and it is a constant reminder of those first lessons I learned in India.

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