christmas

Christmas 2016.

Author’s note: I’m taking the week off to enjoy Christmas. Here is a favorite reposted article from December 19, 2015. 

By Chris Warren

Christmas means different things to different people. For some, like me, it’s a religious holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. For little kids, it’s a joyful time of toys and presents. For people employed in critical professions, Christmas is another day on the job.

Sadly, for many, the holidays are a very painful reminder of their loneliness and isolation. A battle with addiction. Homelessness. Unemployment. Estrangement from family. Thoughts of suicide.

Christmas is the seriously ill patient, grateful for having made it another year and nervously concerned that it might be their last.

Christmas is the old man sitting alone and forgotten, contemplating the lifetime of bad decisions that brought him to this time and place.

Christmas is the unemployed veteran who gave so much of himself to protect the liberty of others and was rewarded with broken promises.

Christmas is the struggling single mom and her kids who are squeaking by for now but have no idea what life will be like in another month.

Christmas is the oppressed and persecuted all over the world who cannot find even one moment’s peace or the simplest of freedoms.

We are commanded by God to watch over and care for the less fortunate. Non-believers will question and even mock this concept with statements along the lines of “if your god is so powerful and almighty, why does he let people suffer?” God does not want programmed robots working for Him. He gave all of us a free will. Doing good works is our way of showing others our love for Him, but He rigged it so we could decide for ourselves if we were going to answer the call. When the needs of the hungry and the poor and the sick go unaddressed, it’s not because God “let” it happen. It’s because we mortal sinners let it happen.

Yet all is not dreary and bleak. Christ himself  taught that there is always hope for those who believe. Christmas exists for the sole purpose of letting everyone know that through Him is the path to a better place, even if that “better place” is not on this physical Earth.

For sure, Christmas is a celebration and there is nothing wrong with partaking in parties and food and gifts, unless the only reason you’re into the holiday is because of parties and food and gifts. When the egg nog wears off and the sales are over and the decorations are put away, what, or who, do you truly care about? Are you hearing the message, or was it just a party?

Christmas is December 25. And January 17. And March 5. And July. 10. And October 8. And so on. You get the idea. God is real. Are you?

Merry Christmas and God Bless from Twenty First Summer. 

flag burning

The Reason We Shouldn’t Is Because We Can.

By Chris Warren

There are a lot of ways to identify a blubbering idiot.  The most common is when someone announces that they have the “right” to do or say something, then proceeds to make a big dramatic spectacle of doing it. At that point the odds are very good that they are in blubbering idiot territory.

Flag burning as a form of protest has seen something of a renaissance lately. The self absorbed, mostly millennial-aged activists represent a huge buffet of causes and think they are being edgy and progressive, but we of more vintage know that flag burning is an old trope that goes back to the Vietnam era. I presume one of the protesters’ goals is to convince others to join their cause; apparently they have not figured out that flag burning  is appealing to no one except those who were already on their side in the first place.

Burning the American flag is an offense far beyond any single cause because it is the symbol of all just causes. The average protester does not have enough brain cells to understand the irony of destroying the very symbol of what protects their freedom to protest, or that it reflects the protesters’ own weakness and lack of courage.

They don’t burn the flag to advance their cause. They burn the flag for the shock value and to be hurtful. That’s really what this is all about. They’re like a recalcitrant angry child screaming “Mommy I hate you!”. Their immaturity does not allow them to express themselves in any reasonable way, so they lash out with the only weapon they have–inflicting emotional pain.

When a protester is asked why they are protesting, the answer is almost always some nebulous statement about “rights,” either theirs or someone else’s. I do agree that burning the American flag is a Constitutionally protected First Amendment right, even as I personally find it deeply offensive. But my individual sensibilities are not a basis for a legal or moral system.

I’m sure the flag-burners are likewise offended that I exercise my Second Amendment rights by packing a gun everywhere I go. The difference of course is that I do not carry a gun for the sole purpose of upsetting anyone, although it does not bother me at all if someone is. No one has the right not to be offended, and that concept is a two way street. One could fill many gigabytes of computer memory discussing the contradictions and double-standards that revolve around the flag.

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One sign of maturity and wisdom is the ability to accept an opinion you disagree with and not take it as a personal affront. The flip side to this is mature people do not deliberately inflict emotional pain as part of, or in many cases in lieu of, making their point.

The other day a television news channel featured a story about protesters protesting the recent US Presidential election by burning an American flag. Unfortunately for the protesters, the coverage was almost totally devoted to the flag burning. Barely any mention was made about what they were actually protesting against.

And so it is with such childish and disrespectful overtures. The flag burning becomes the issue and no one pays much attention to whatever the hell it is they are complaining about.

I suggest that the best response to flag burning is to be passive and let it go. I know it is difficult, but not all wrongdoing is worthy of intervention. Anti-flag burners do not want to descend into a state where they think everything that offends them should be eradicated from the Earth. If that sentiment sounds familiar, it’s because we already have an entire generation of runny-nosed milquetoasts who need puppies and Play-Doh just to get through the “trauma” of an election that offended them, but apparently not enough for most of them to participate in.

Burning the American flag is Constitutionally acceptable (albeit offensive) free speech. Honorable men and women have fought and died for our rights, and that includes the right to be a blubbering flag-burning idiot. I have no confidence that someday the idiots will see their foolish former selves immortalized forever on YouTube and be embarrassed enough to join the ranks of we who understand that the reason you shouldn’t is because you can.

politics-pizza

Stale Bread vs. Burned Pizza

Have you ever opened the refrigerator, pulled out everything you need to make a great sandwich, only to discover the last two slices of bread are stale and dry and old? You make the sandwich anyway. It’s still reasonably edible, but only because you’re desperate and hungry.

And have you ever popped a frozen pizza in the oven, then got distracted by a phone call or something on TV, only to catch your oversight right before it turns into a flaming platter of charcoal? The pizza is a mess but not a total loss. You were soooo looking forward to it that you salvage what’s left and try to convince yourself that it really isn’t that bad.

Well wow, the election is over. The far right is gloating, the far left is crying, and the rest are just glad that the drama of a high-tension election has passed. That’s not to say there isn’t more drama coming; it just means the big banana question of who will be our next President has been answered. Buried in the mind numbing details is what will happen to the two major parties, and who will be steering the ship? We have drifted into a world of bizarro politics  where the only items on the menu are stale bread and burned pizza.

It will take historians of politics many years to determine how Hillary Clinton came to be so out of touch that she lost the working middle class vote –badly– to an old money billionaire who craps in gold plated toilets. I’ll offer a hint: Middle class America can’t relate to a pathologically dishonest stale bread candidate who, after thirty years in government, could not come up with any solutions more original than tax the rich and solar panels. I’m also willing to bet that trotting out all those pleading celebrities, smug university academics, and even a sitting President who possibly had more to lose than the candidate he was endorsing did not score even one single new vote for Clinton.

Proving that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, the Democrats are about to re-elect Nancy Pelosi as their congressional minority leader. As someone who is more stale bread-ish than Hillary, Pelosi would be the de facto new-old face of the party and the highest ranking Democrat in the land. They inexplicably think that the San Francisco liberal who brought us transgender bathrooms and condoms for twelve year olds is the missing link needed to connect with farmer’s wives in Iowa and laid off steelworkers in Pennsylvania.

The same historians of politics who can’t figure out Clinton’s loss are likewise baffled over Donald Trump’s win. Admittedly, it’s hard to see how conservatives managed to elect a guy who spent his entire life as one of the east coast liberal elites Republicans love to deride, then at the age of 70 had a great epiphany that inspired his newfound love for Ronald Reagan and the Second Amendment.

Donald Trump’s penchant for choosing unnecessarily coarse words both in his past and in his politics came to a rolling boil just in time for the Republicans to come down with a case of moral amnesia. Suddenly, “locker room talk” was a catch-all excuse for every crude reference to female anatomy. Politics does odd things to people. I’m sure Bill Clinton was relieved that at last the conservatives were talking about someone else’s indiscretions.

No matter what Donald Trump may have done (real or perceived) to disqualify himself from politics, it didn’t seem to matter because he did after all win the election. One cannot argue with success. Republicans accept him as the the burned pizza candidate: Messy and imperfect, but lacking any better options, it will have to be acceptable.

It’s baffling that in the most powerful, most skilled, most promising nation that has ever existed, a land of so many brilliant minds, the best we could come up with is stale bread and burned pizza. My fellow Americans, can we order out next time?

donald trump

Revenge of the Deplorables.

By Chris Warren.

The world’s oldest functioning democracy has spoken and we are getting President Donald Trump. It was quixotic long shot that blindsided the world, but sometimes long shots actually succeed. The pundits and experts and analysts will spend years picking this election apart to study Donald Trump’s breathtaking smackdown of not just the liberal establishment, but also the media, the polling industry, and the entire Washington plutocracy. Not one of the political science wizards can interpret the 2016 election as well as I, because I am the reason Donald Trump won and liberalism not only failed, but was utterly vanquished.

This story is not mine alone. What follows are the thoughts and feelings of millions.

For at least a generation, and especially in the last eight years, the average everyday conservative Christian white guy has been maligned and beaten. Everything we said and did was twisted into “hate speech” and “intolerance”.

The idea of honest work and paying your own way in this world has morphed into an attitude of entitlement where one has a “right” to pretty much everything, and stick someone else with the bill. That “someone else” was me, and last Tuesday, I raised a big middle finger and spit in the faces of liberal elite.

The simmering pot of conservative retribution has been in the slow cooker for decades, and now dinner is served!

Donald Trump was the only Presidential candidate in my lifetime to understand the average everyday conservative Christian working white guy in any real depth. Strangely, Trump being a silver spoon billionaire with a weak record of conservatism doesn’t matter. I don’t need a President to agree with or be like me. I just want a President who doesn’t hate me.

While I still have a problem with Donald Trump’s sometimes crude decorum and attitudes, when the pablum and crudity is scraped away he “gets it”. He can and does earnestly place himself in the shoes of the average everyday conservative Christian white guy, and that’s why he’s good enough for me.

Hillary Clinton, who has never worked a real job in her entire life and does not say anything unless it is tested in a focus group and cleared by a half dozen paid consultants, is a labyrinth of contradictions and double standards. To paraphrase one conservative commentator, Clinton is so pathologically dishonest, she lies even when she does not have to.

Admittedly, Donald Trump is unnecessarily rough in his manner, but he’s not maliciously deceptive. I would not believe Hillary Clinton if she told me the sun was going to rise tomorrow. Given the choice between a creep or a crook, I’ll take the former.

When liberals are in power they  talk in gentle tones about compromise and working together. What this really means is they believe they know what is best, so go along or be accused of waging a “war on fill in the blank” or branded with a derogatory noun ending with the suffix -ist or -phobe. Now that the tables have been turned, I’m not interested in compromise. I’m not interested in unity or working together. I’m not interested in being friends. The Democrats did not want my friendship then, and I don’t want theirs now.

Simply winning an election was not good enough for me. I also voted for the failure of the Democratic party and intend on using my newfound advantage to demoralize liberals, openly mock, deride, and humiliate them, destroy their policies and legislation, and call them out for the sanctimonious piles of shit that they are. The simmering pot of conservative retribution has been in the slow cooker for decades, and now dinner is served! Believe it.

The party of tolerance and acceptance dismissed us as rednecks from flyover country, bumpkins, NASCAR dolts, hillbillies, white trash, and ignorant xenophobic rubes clinging to guns and religion. They belittled our faith, our values, our communities, and even the trucks we drive. We just kept chugging along in quiet dignity, doing the best we can with what we had. It’s time to settle the score.

What comes around, goes around; the revenge of the pissed off deplorable has come to fruition. Life as a liberal in the USA is about to get very unpleasant, and I’m gleefully looking forward to being one of the reasons why. Last Tuesday’s election was only the beginning; we are going to screw them over every chance we get. Can you hear me now?

Take that Hope & Change and shove it straight up your ass.

fast fashion

Fast Fashion Discounts The Environment.

By Chris Warren.

My daily “uniform” is jeans and a t-shirt, unless it’s warm out, then it’s shorts and a t-shirt. Heck, I don’t even own a suit. I’ve never been a dress up guy. The closest I get to dressing up is some nice shirts and jeans picked out by someone with a better sense of style than myself. It saves me money, and my wardrobe does not turn over that often. I did not realize until recently that my non-participation in fast fashion had an environmental as well as practical benefit.

Fast fashion is an industry buzzword that means to churn out inexpensive, trendy clothes. Instead of new styles being introduced two or three times a year, clothing is continuous stream of new designs that flips every month or so. By speeding up the clothing design & production process and lowering the price, retailers calculate that there is more profit in selling several less expensive items than one big ticket item. Therefore, the faster a garment becomes obsolete, the sooner consumers can be sold something else.

If a shopper buys a $500 dress, they expect it to last a long time, both in style and physical wear. But if you can sell them a $50 dress that is essentially a clone of a prestigious brand, they don’t care so much if it is out of fashion after a few months or even if it is cheaply made. It’s not going to be around that long anyway. They will buy a new dress four, five, six times or more every year to keep up with fast fashion. By the way, this scheme is used on men’s clothing too.

That’s how fast fashion brings in the money, and shoppers are taking the bait. Six $50 dresses cost the consumer a lot less than one $500 dress, and the retailer makes at least as much if not more profit. There is an added bonus: Getting the customer in the store six or more times a year (as opposed to one or two) is more opportunities to upsell other products.

Very few plots to vacuum out consumers’ wallets have been as effective as fast fashion. As a marketing strategy, it’s brilliant. Normally I would leave this alone and let capitalism run its course. This time though, the environmental impact of fast fashion cannot be given a pass.

Cheaply made clothes that are discarded frequently and replaced with more cheaply made clothes equals lot of unwanted clothes, not to mention the energy, resources, and sweatshop labor needed to produce and transport them to market. The Council for Textile Recycling estimates that the average American throws out 70 lbs. (31.75 kg) of clothing and other textiles every year…and that estimate is from 2009, well before fast fashion became fashionable!

Only a small percentage of this material is recycled, donated, or otherwise put to another useful purpose. What’s worse, the fabric is almost entirely synthetic and will last decades in a landfill. The unintended consequence of fast fashion is millions of tons of waste every year. The clothing industry is paying only vague attention to this issue, making token efforts to promote environmentally responsible practices.

Unfortunately, fast fashion is a marketing tactic that creates an artificial need for a what is essentially a throwaway product, without much regard for the impact that product has on the environment.

While many will (correctly) lay responsibility at the feet of the retailers and manufacturers, the consumer is a willing and equal party to cramming last month’s fashions into the landfills. I think I’ll hang onto my five year old  jeans and go about my very unstylish life. I may not look like the latest big thing, but the Earth will look better for not having so much of my old clothes buried in it.

texting étiquette

Texting Etiquette, For Dummies!

By: Chris Warren.

Early Sunday morning I was looking for a few moments of mindless diversion browsing some internet forums and I came across a curious post by someone asking about texting etiquette. What followed was a long involved discussion about what is considered polite and what isn’t. I honestly never thought much about this, and from what I can tell, some people are thinking too much about texting etiquette.

It’s lost on me why texting is different than other forms of electronic communication and needs its own set of special rules. I understand some rules are a matter of practicality, but texting? Really? Here are “Chris’ Texting Etiquette Rules.” They are easy, simple, and to the point:

If you are texting with someone you are close to and know very well, then go with whatever is comfortable for the relationship. The rules are what you make them.

If you are texting with someone you do not know well, or it is a professional relationship, keep things short and businesslike. The use of emoticons and obscure abbreviations are not necessarily outlawed, but be careful they don’t make you look like a dork or overly personal.

Do not feel bad about texting people at weird hours unless they explicitly request otherwise . It’s on them to mute their phone if they don’t want to be interrupted. If you text someone in the middle of the night or at any other time when they may be predisposed (working hours, driving a car, holidays etc.), do not expect a quick repose.

One texting etiquette rule that popped up a lot was “never call in response to a text”. The huge problem I have with this is that texting has a limited capacity. I’ve often found myself in situations where a conversation starts as simple exchange and evolves into a convoluted back and forth. At some point, texting becomes too cumbersome and it’s way easier just to call.

Many if not most of the suggestions about texting etiquette I found on the internet are related to relationships and dating. If this pertains to you, my Number One rule is “when in doubt, leave it out.” This means if you even slightly question the propriety of what you are texting, then don’t text it.

For the ladies: Guys like texting because it is (usually) short, to the point, and emotionally detached. Don’t get all bent out of shape if your guy’s texts are not overflowing with little heart emoticons and kissy faces. To us, it’s communication, not a Valentine’s Day card. Therefore, if you text your guy and ask him what he wants on his pizza, and the the only response you get is…what he wants on his pizza, that’s not a red flag nor reason to elevate it into some big relationship drama. It reeks of being desperate and needy and it’s a huge buzzkill. If you’re at a point where you’re reading that much into his text messages, then the relationship has problems much deeper than your guy’s text etiquette.

For the guys: If your lady is a habitual abuser of long, emotional texts, it may be because you do not have enough face to face talks and/or you are not responsive in person. When these texts annoy you, or you feel awkward getting involved with in-depth discussions on text, get off your ass and call her, or better yet, go see her in person…you know, like a mature adult. Being stoic and detached may look cool in the movies, but in real life it seldom gets you anywhere with the womenfolk. Don’t hide behind texting as an excuse to be a distant jerk. If you’re at a point where the only way she can get you to say anything is on text, then the relationship has problems much deeper than your lady’s text etiquette.

Text etiquette is convention that is way more complex than it needs to be. Before getting all wrapped up in rules, try applying the Golden Rule. And by the way, the Golden Rule works for stuff other than texting too. The complex world of technology does not negate basic courtesy, no matter what the internet experts say.

hero

The Value Of A Hero.

With the political season nearing its denouement, there is a lot of hero worship from every campaign. The military and police are oft cited examples, and the hero label has been applied to everyone from generals to pizza delivery guys. It seems like the definition of hero can be stretched to include almost anyone, and that is quite bothersome.

What I’m left wondering is, what exactly is a hero anymore? There are obvious examples that are easy to quantify, such as the guy who risks his own safety to rescue someone from a car sinking in water, or a Congressional Medal Of Honor winner. But after that it’s not so clear cut.

Is someone a hero simply by being in a certain group, such as firefighters and the military? Or do they actually have to do something heroic? Suppose an ordinary guy who otherwise has never shown any proclivity for acts of bravery is suddenly thrust into a situation…such as child trapped in a burning building. If he places himself in great peril to rescue the child, is he a hero more, less, or equal to the retired Army sergeant who spent his entire career at a desk job and never did anything more hazardous than minimum required basic training?

By virtue of their enlistment, the military people have professed a willingness to place themselves in danger on behalf of others. The same could be said of police officers and firefighters. This willingness is not mere words. It is  verified by lengthy, difficult training intended in part to weed out the pretenders from those who really mean it. Is that enough to satisfy the nebulous “do something” requirement?

Whether or not they have ever actually done anything dangerously heroic is beside the point. Raising their hands and volunteering to imperil themselves in the service of complete strangers must count for something, and in my mind it makes them a hero on some level even if they are never called to perform these duties.

That brings us to the less obvious. Teachers, clergy, medical people, and a raft of others are often lifted to hero status. The missions they undertake are unarguably difficult, noble, and often done at great personal sacrifice. But here we go again…does mere inclusion in one of these respected groups by default make them a hero?

We admire teachers and clergy and the rest…I get it. Yet I cannot make an easy connection between someone who does something honorable and selfless, but not particularly risky, and someone who actually does take a big risk or accepts the potential of danger.

The problem I have with the modern hero is that, consistent with society’s attitude of “everyone gets a trophy,” and “let’s not hurt anyone’s feelings,” the concept of a hero has been diluted down to include pretty much everyone. And if everyone is a hero, then being a one isn’t such a big deal. Furthermore, the real heroes, those who clearly earned it, are having their rightful honor debased.

I do not consider myself a hero, but I’m sure if I was a lot more full of myself I could find a circuitous way to claim the title. Meh. I’ll watch with a little sadness while so many others abuse the term. When it’s all over, I’ll give up my spot on the pedestal for someone who really deserves it.

sandwich-race-relations

The Sandwich Solution.

By Chris Warren.

Recent events in Charlotte, North Carolina and in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as other instances of black citizens being shot dead by the police have kept alive the ongoing and seemingly endless charges of institutional racism in the United States. I’m not here to make a lengthy commentary on the validity of the collective accusations, except to say that I believe neither side is totally right nor totally wrong.

What I am going to suggest is that race relations would improve if we followed the example of a sandwich. No, this is is not a gag or satire piece, and I am absolutely not trying to trivialize the immense emotional pain these deaths cause others. Twenty First Summer  is a serious blog and this is a serious discourse.

The individual contents of a sandwich are not particularly inviting. No one eats just a raw onion or a spoonful of mustard or a leaf of plain lettuce. And while a solo slice of cheese or meat is completely palatable, it’s not very exciting. But put it all together between two slices of bread and the end result is a symphony of delicious that no one refuses.

Go anywhere in the world, in any culture, and they have some version of a sandwich. It’s the universal food for an entire planet, possibly the only food that everyone eats.

Now compare all of humanity to the ingredients of a sandwich. Each ingredient has its own special qualities and is inherently valuable, but by itself can only be so much. When combined together they are something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The point is that people are better as a group than we are when wrapped up inside ourselves. We don’t have to always agree. We don’t have to hold hands and sing. Heck, we don’t even have to like each other! We simply have to live and let live respectfully.

That’s why we could learn a lot about race relations by looking at the example of the humble sandwich. Together, the ingredients of a sandwich accomplish something that they cannot achieve individually.

And so it is with people. We can stand alone and be just average, which is not horrible, but why settle for average? Or we can join together and be something stellar. It’s not lost on me that race relations are a complex topic with a high emotional payload and a lineage going back hundreds of years, but what the hell. Nothing else has worked; a “sandwich solution” is not any more a nutty idea than all the failures that came before it.

work shoes

The Story In A Workingman’s Shoes.

By Chris Warren.

I went out yesterday and bought a new pair of work shoes. I know it’s not exactly a profound life event, but when I looked at my old shoes it struck me that every beat up, worn out pair has a story to tell about a Workingman.

Most people have several pairs of shoes for everyday use, but the Workingman, a guy who doesn’t wear a fine suit, usually has only one pair. Those old shoes carried me through every moment of my career for several years. I wear them more than any other single article of clothing I own.

The photo above shows two pairs of my work shoes. Both are the exact same make, model, and size. One pair is three years old and well past the end of its useful life; the other is brand new, never worn. When compared side by side, it’s a bit startling to see what three years of honest hard work will do to a pair of shoes.

Those shoes were a silent witness to many great things that happened to me, and a few not so great things. They were there when the boss dressed me down over a mistake I made; they were also there when the same boss gave me a fat bonus and told me what a great employee I was. They’ve been to funerals and retirement parties. They’ve shoveled snow and walked through 100 degree heat.

Every scuff and crack and stain and scrape on those old shoes has a story behind it. Of course, I don’t remember the details of how and when every blemish occurred, but collectively they are the testimony of a guy who clearly does not spend much time sitting around.

Workingmen are not a complicated lot, which, by the way, should not be interpreted as being uneducated or simple-minded. Their skills are technical and complex and can take years, even decades, to master. The Workingman’s job requires advanced math and analytical abilities; many of the people in work shoes and hard hats hold college degrees and/or have completed vocational training that essentially equals or exceeds a college degree. They show up every day with lunchbox in hand and a can-do spirit in their heart and do what is needed to keep our modern world seamlessly running.

Building buildings, lighting up the cities, keeping cellphones on line, toilets flushing, and trucks and trains and airplanes moving are all part of the countless behind the scenes labors that no one sees but everyone would definitely notice if they did not get done correctly and on time. These are not skills any unmotivated dropout can learn. Workingmen are diverse in their advanced expertise but they have one thing in common: Their shoes do not stay pristine and new for very long.

I don’t know why, but there is something about getting a new pair of work shoes that boosts my mood. For that first few days, before they are fully broken in and start showing obvious signs of wear, I put my work shoes on in the morning and leave the house feeling like it’s going to be a good day. Like a blank sheet of paper they too will collect the story of my daily life and someday will be worn and spent.

That is where the Workingman is different from his shoes: The Workingman is never spent. He may return home tired at the end of each shift and dream of a well earned retirement, but the next morning he will put on the same pair of shoes and go out and make the world happen…again. During the course of his day his shoes will collect a few more scrapes and scuffs, each of which is a testimony to honest hard work. Show me a beat up old pair of work shoes, and I’ll show you a dignified Workingman who never failed to carry the pride of his skill and labor upon them.

mother teresa 2

Mother Teresa, For The Ages

By: Chris Warren.

I had started an article about Mother Teresa over a year ago, then changed my plans and never finished it. Now that Mother Theresa is officially Saint Teresa of Calcutta, it’s a good time to finish the story, even though the story of Mother Teresa will never end, nor should it.

Mother Teresa’s path to greatness started the same way as most great people: She wasn’t looking for greatness, she was just looking to make a difference. After starting the Missionaries of Charity religious order in 1950, Mother Teresa set out on a quiet mission to serve the poorest of the poor, the forgotten, the unseen, the unwanted, the untouchables.

Earning a Nobel Peace Prize, several honorary doctorate degrees, dozens of other awards and honors, being celebrated by Popes and Presidents, and even having an airport named after her was never part of the plan. Through it all, this woman of God kept plugging along and never diverted from her calling.

What impresses me most about Mother Teresa is her sense of humanity. Not only in her public service to others, but also her private personal struggles, admissions of doubt in her own faith, and her open acknowledgement that she was really just a regular person, a sinner in need of God’s salvation and no better or more deserving than all the rest of us.

It’s easy to see someone like her as some perfect being who operates on a level the rest of us will never realize. Yet, Mother Teresa herself would be the first person to deny having a special pipeline to holiness. She did not see herself as being much different than those she served.

If we dig into the biographies of figures who changed the world by peacefully serving others we find people who were, well, just people. They had faults. They did things they later regretted. They sometimes hurt others and were hurt by others. At their roots they were ordinary folk who somehow found a way to rise up and do big things in spite of their personal shortcomings. Their greatness was not that they were flawless, because they weren’t, and they knew it. Their greatness came from their faith that they could overcome both internal and external obstacles and live what they believed.

These “star throwers” know they are never going to save everyone, but that’s not the point. It did not stop Mother Teresa because trying to save everyone and coming up short is more virtuous than using the impossibility of the task as an excuse not to try at all. Her effort had the added benefit of being an example to others. Mother Teresa never knew how many others saw her good works and were inspired to go out and do something good themselves.

mother teresa 1

Pope Francis recently Tweeted, “To offer today’s world the witness of mercy is a task from which none of us can feel exempted.” This serendipitous statement is everything Mother Teresa lived for. Mother Teresa does not live on in the form of anything she directly did to help others, although those contributions are indeed memorable. Her gift to the world, and what she would want as her legacy, was her role as a guiding light for the rest of us to join her. As Pope Francis teaches, none of us are exempted.

No one ever received God’s grace, much less became a Saint, by watching others perform acts of mercy. To that end, the world’s adulation of Mother Teresa does not mean much if the world will not also walk a path of selfless service. Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s message for the ages is that she did not want to be admired; she wanted to be emulated.

Author’s Note: Please also see my related article, Strong Enough To Throw A Star.