Mother Teresa - her life is a study in giving, living in service to those less fortunate, and working tirelessly for there are so many in need in this world. She was a symbol of hope to the hopeless, a paragon of faith and compassion.
An Albanian-born Roman Catholic nun and a missionary, she founded the Missionaries of Charity, in 1946, in Calcutta, India. Besides taking vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, the members also profess a fourth vow – to give "wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor." The Roman Catholic religious congregation has over 5000 sisters serving in over 130 countries.
Her work among those inflicted with leprosy and ostracised by society brought her recognition and awards from far and wide – from the Nobel Peace Prize to the Padma Sri to the Albert Schweitzer International Prize, to name just a few.
Mother, as she was affectionately called by those who knew her and knew of her, moved seemingly impossible mountains to bring solace to those in the most depraved of conditions. And like a mother, her words and her deeds impart wisdom long after she's passed on.
The suffering Mother must have seen firsthand is unimaginable. She worked among lepers, those infected with HIV and tuberculosis, orphans, and destitute in some of the most impoverished parts of the world.
Yet, strikingly, she's is quoted as saying, "Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty."
Mind you, she said these words decades earlier, long before "mental health" was recognized as what it is today! It is a testimony to her compassion and profound association with the abjectly poor that must have given her such an acute insight. Illustrating her point, Mother would often recount an incident of when she rescued a dying woman on the street. The woman was weeping because her family had deserted her and not because she was dying!
Having run mobile clinics, treatment facilities, and palliative centers, Mother was no stranger to debilitating physical illnesses. But she said, "Of all the diseases I have known, loneliness is the worst."
Over the past year and more, the world has been dealing with a virulent pandemic. Besides the uncertainties posed by a 'new' virus, most of us had to grapple with being cut off from our family and friends. It has taken a toll on many of us in different ways.
The need for human connections and the importance of social contact has been brought to our understanding in stark relief. The need to maintain resilient family bonds, have strong community networks, and nurture a close-knit group of friends is more evident than ever.
In light of what we have all endured with the pandemic, let us make a more concerted effort to address and ease loneliness in those near and dear to us. Reach out to seek help and to offer comfort, for as Mother said, "The greatest science in the world; in heaven and on earth; is love."