It’s been a rough week for the world, in the midst of a couple dozen centuries of rough weeks. I’ve felt sustained and strengthened though by this quote, which is often attributed to Mother Teresa of Calcutta:
We can’t do great things, we can only do small things with great love.
It’s so good, right? So brave and staunch and galvanizing. It knocks me right out of a generalized, paralyzed and slightly self-indulgent state of outraged sorrow (which is VERY different than the holy and necessary work of grieving a personal loss). It gets me up out of the swamp of defeatism and has me putting one foot back in front of the other. It is powerful medicine for my soul.
I thought you guys might like it too, so I went online to confirm Mother T’s exact wording, and oh you guys– I fell into a wormhole. It turns out, St. Teresa was complicated. She was a woman who did great things, a woman who did questionable things, a woman who may have lost her faith but kept going anyway, a woman who maybe didn’t quite tell the truth about the fact that she’d lost her faith, a woman who had what I consider to be inhumane and ass-backward views on some of the important questions of our time, and yet of course she was also a bona fide goddamn hero.
I lost myself for a little while. It all seemed hopeless. If even Mother Teresa was a mess, what hope is there for the rest of us?
But I decided in the end that it didn’t matter. Out of that complicated and tangled story, I decided to pull out this gold thread that shimmered as bright as ever.
Whether she said it or not, whether I agree with her about all sorts of things or not, I receive and hold on to these words with immense gratitude:
Do small things with great love.
My heart knows that this is the way forward. The only way, in fact. And it happens to be, sneakily, how we get to the great things.
Unfortunately, my mind thinks this is terrible advice.
My mind thinks I am supposed to be Madam Secretary (as played by Tea Leoni) and Hilary Clinton (in real life) and also I should have already written every book ever written by Glennon Doyle and Anne Lamott and Martha Beck and Liz Gilbert and Jenny Lawson– EVEN THOUGH they have already been written by those lovely people. And moreover, if I cannot accomplish those things, it tells me, I should not even bother. Unless perhaps I can become a human rights attorney OVERNIGHT and singlehandedly take over all the everything.
Maybe you feel this way too sometimes; the forces of pointless destruction seem so big, and we seem so small. And plus, I personally fuck up my own little plot on a regular basis! How am I supposed to help the world??
But I believe in you.
I really do. And I even believe in me. And I know that we can change our own worlds with one small act of kindness, generosity, fortitude, and bravery at a time. This isn’t a nice theory; I’ve watched it happen in my own mind and heart and in the lives of my clients. Love wins.
And one thing I know is this: that brave joyful EFBA shit is CONTAGIOUS.
So if we keep changing ourselves, and expanding our worlds, eventually we can change the whole world. It’s a global takeover by the wise women, folks– it’s TIME already. And some of the wise women are men, naturally.
So wherever you are, do something small but do it with great love.
Maybe the most helpful thing you can do right now seems a tad silly. Maybe you can send a tiny check where it will make a difference. Maybe you can reach out to mentor someone who could use you as an ally. Maybe you can make everyone at your table laugh so hard that cider shoots out their noses. Maybe, if you’re me, the most useful thing you can do this weekend is go to your kid’s school auction and bid exorbitantly on something, because that is the exact way that we get decadent things like music and art and a LIBRARY at school for a whole city of kids.
But always and always, you can try just loving on whatever sweet human happens to be next to you. Because look how amazing that can be:
Click here and get the tissues ready. (Thanks for this, C.)