“Hey, Mother Teresa,” the voice called out to me. “Thanks for helping me out.” He slammed his car door, gunned the engine, and waved as he drove off the church parking lot. I smiled for a minute to myself, thinking of an old CNN interview I saw years ago with Mother Teresa. “Not a bad person to be compared to,” I mentally assured myself.
My mind raced back to a CNN interview I saw with Mother Teresa years before. A correspondent was blown away by Mother Teresa’s care for people. At the date of the interview, she had personally picked up over 30,000 sick and dying people from the streets of Calcutta. The awestruck reporter looked sincerely into her eyes and said, “How do you keep from getting overwhelmed when you deal with this much sickness and death every day? How do you keep doing this?”
Mother Teresa was silent for a moment. Then, with thoughtful, compassionate deliberation, she gave the young reporter her answer. “It’s really very easy, son. I am with one soul at a time. I choose to be fully present with the person I am with. And as I look into each person’s face, I see the face of Christ. I never think about yesterday, tomorrow, or an hour from now when I look into a person’s eyes. At that moment, it is never 30,000 people. I give myself to one person at a time.”
Those words are hauntingly profound in the rat race of pressurized youth ministry demands. “It is never 30,000…I give myself to one person at a time.” Great advice, especially when I feel overwhelmed by so many teenagers and tasks silently screaming for my attention. I sometimes feel like it’s all pretty impossible. For every one kid I seem to help, there are 10 others I don’t have time to reach out to. It’s tough to stay motivated when the only thing growing in your ministry is your “to do” list.
But Mother Teresa had it right. Instead of letting myself become overwhelmed by the needs, I just focus on the one singular person in front of me. Instead of letting guilt push me to an even more frenzied pace, I slow down and give myself away authentically to one person at a time.
So how are you doing on Mother Teresa’s theology? Let a couple of teenagers know that you care genuinely about them and your day has been a Christ-honoring success—no matter how many others you still haven’t connected with. And while you’re doing it, remember, “It is never 30,000…I give myself to one person at a time.”