I lived for three months in Calcutta, India with the purpose of working with Mother Teresa. She is after all a really big deal. And so is Ganesh, for one small act he did for me changed me more meeting Mother Teresa.
In the mornings I worked at Nirmal Hriday, Mother Teresa’s home for the dying. Most of the men there were terminally ill. They were indeed destitute. They were there because Brothers and Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity would take a stretcher out to the streets and pick up the person who seemed to be suffering the most. It was there I met Gansesh.
It was Ganesh that made me understand what made Mother Teresa who she was. Ganesh had been hit by a bus, the wound went through to the bone, and being destitute, there was no health care at all for him. He had been there in that home for months, in pain and in very very slow care for a wound that may not heal before it killed him. Ganesh found out I had a birthday approaching.
There was an American couple, apparently affluent, who had come to volunteer, but who mostly came once a day and passed out candy to those with teeth who could handle American sweets. Ganesh was one of them and he absolutely loved the chewy candy. I walked in the morning of my birthday and Ganesh waved his arms at my violently like he was airport traffic controller trying to keep a plane from hitting an elephant on the tarmac. He grabbed my hand, pulled me to his cot, and showed off how he had learned to say Happy Birthday in English. He was proud. I was too. Then he lifted up the corner of his cot mattress and pulled out two American Tootsie Rolls.
They were for my Birthday. They were for me.
Mother Teresa used to hold up her hand and touch each finger one at a time as she would say, “You did it for me.” Five words. Five fingers. She was referencing Matthew 25 when Jesus goes to the faithful and tells them how they had fed him, clothed him, visited him. “For whenever you do it to the least of these you do it to me.”
Mother Teresa found God in the faces of the poor, and so she loved them, in her imperfect way, as if they were God. And she did it a long time. The only difference between the saints and us is practice. She remained faithful even in the darkest of times. Being a saint is not magic. “Those people,” aren’t special. They are just like us but with lots of practice loving and being loved by God. If she can do it it opened up the possibility of any one of us doing the same, in our own way. That smells like hope.
I sat with Ganesh. He gave me literally everything he had. Everything.
If you want to be a saint, just put your self in the way of love. It seems to work.