“I wish I could be that mom that bakes cookies. Your house always smells like cookies, and you just seem so happy.”
As I received this compliment, I was a bit perplexed. Is baking cookies the deciding factor when it comes to the happiness quotient of a family? No, of course not, but my friend was picking up on something else altogether. She wasn’t interested in the cookies; she was interested in the happiness. To her – and to so many in this modern age – “happiness” is somewhat of an enigma, a goal just out of reach.
There’s a good reason why she and so many others struggle to find authentic happiness: the modern family is being bombarded with false promises for what will make families happier. Even more importantly, happiness is never won passively; we must actively seek it.
St. Teresa of Calcutta—more popularly known as “Mother Teresa”—is one of the most beloved modern-day saints, and her wisdom can inspire families who are seeking more peace and joy—true joy, that is. Here are three keys from her that can help us find joy in our lives.
Key 1: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
Soak in the beauty and raw truth of these words.
We need these words in our lives now more than ever. Social media is a tool that can be used for good or bad, but too often it’s used as a tool to promote false roads to happiness. Society at large tells us that we need to have bigger houses, newer cars, and fuller schedules. We are bombarded with Pinterest-perfect homes and lofty expectations that can put a burden on our mental health trying to “keep up with the Jones.” But the truth is that we can’t do it all – at least, we can’t do it all well.
Through mainstream media, we are told that “more” is always the answer, but St. Teresa of Calcutta brings it back home: feed just one. “More” is not the answer when it’s a soul at stake. She gives a concrete way for families to live out Jesus’ teaching of the lost sheep.
Even just feeding one toddler is enough to live out this teaching. Feeding (and therefore loving) “just one” reaffirms the value and dignity of that one person, whether they are 2 or 92.
Embracing these words with an open heart can affect your whole view of humanity, and if you can feed just one – and see the value in just one – you are living out the pro-life values of the Church. When you start to feel how big of an impact you can make on one human’s trajectory of life, even just one of your children, you’ll start to feel happier because there is true joy in taking care of others.
Key 2: “There are no great things, only small things with great love. Happy are those.”
Think about a time when you felt completely taken for granted. It can happen in the workplace, and it can absolutely happen in the home. Changing a diaper, for instance, is a thankless job. A baby literally cannot thank you with words. Keeping a tally of things like this is a quick way to feel despair. It’s easy to feel burned out when you’re waiting for thanks, or waiting to feel appreciated. Family life is filled with moments just like this, but thankfully you can find joy here too.
St. Teresa of Calcutta gives us the antidote: do everything with great love. When you act out of love, you’re not looking for a thank you. Love itself is your reward.
When you wipe noses and change diapers out of love – rather than duty – you will find a peace, peace in knowing that you are living out your vocation to the best of your ability.
Don’t stop with just diaper changes. Do everything out of love, and you will find your life transformed. Suddenly, even routine tasks like peeling potatoes can be an outlet for love.
Key 3: “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
“Why should I help? I’m just one seven-year-old!” My son was trying to understand the lesson. My husband was teaching my son to return a cart to the cart corral. It’s wasn’t our cart, but it had drifted into the aisle. My husband fixed one cart, and then another, and then another.
“You always need to leave the place better than when you found it. Look, we’ve fixed four carts, and now someone else will have an easier time because of you,” was my husband’s reply.
This was an important lesson for my son to learn because the “I’m just one person” argument can be debilitating. It’s a slippery slope to feeling depressed when you feel like you don’t matter. In fact, there are now more children being diagnosed with anxiety and depression than ever before! To put it another way: depression and anxiety rates in children were less during times of war including World War II and the Cold War. Yikes! (Source)
So why are more kids struggling with anxiety now than during earlier decades? According to research from a study from researchers at San Diego State University, children and teens today feel less in control of their lives and that has a big impact on their mental health. One of the biggest problems with buying into what mainstream society teaches us is that you end up feeling like just a number. If you can’t wear the cool clothes or look the part, no big deal, society will just replace you with the next one. But that’s not how God works.
You aren’t just a number. You are invaluable and oh-so-loved; even the “hairs of your head have all been counted” (Luke 12:7). When you feel this loved, it’s easier to ignore the lies of society, and St. Teresa of Calcutta reminds us that even the vast ocean is nothing but single drops. What a beautiful image to know that you are important. Recognizing this truth sparks joy and casts out the darkness of feeling inconsequential.
Why St. Teresa’s Works Combat the Anxieties of Modern Life
You—in all of your smallness—matter in a big way. Like Jesus returning for the one lost sheep, St. Teresa of Calcutta encourages us to be like him and seek the one sheep. Feed the one person in your family, do a small thing with love, and embrace everything that it means to be one drop in a big ocean. You are blessed to be in the ocean.
St. Teresa of Calcutta left the world with dozens of memorable quotes, powerful enough to change your whole view of life with just one sentence. Meditating on her words dispels the myth that we are “just a number,” living out in the world without purpose, or without a Father who loves us. She brings us back to this very moment and forces us to be present.
When you realize how important you are in God’s eyes – not society’s –the stresses of modern life seem much easier to handle. Life in general becomes more enjoyable and you can live much happier – with or without baking cookies.