Shane Claiborne shares a beautiful picture of loving sacrifice by Mother Teresa in his book, Irresistible Revolution:
People often ask me what Mother Teresa was like. … She was short, wrinkled, and precious, maybe even a little ornery, like a beautiful, wise old granny. But there is one thing I will never forget – her feet. Her feet were deformed. Each morning in Mass, I would stare at them. I wondered if she had contracted leprosy. But I wasn’t going to ask, of course. “Hey Mother, what’s wrong with your feet? ” One day a sister said to us, “have you noticed her feet?” We nodded, curious. She said, “Her feet are deformed because we get just enough donated shoes for everyone, and Mother does not want anyone to get stuck with the worst pair, so she digs through and finds them. And years of doing that have deformed her feet.” Years of loving her neighbor as herself deformed her feet. -pg. 168
It’s an awe-inspiring story, certainly not something to scoff at. It speaks of sacrifice out of genuine love for others. Now, imagine for a moment that there was more to that story… You see, though Mother Teresa’s digging through the shoe bin for proper shoes is a noble act, she actually has many other pairs of shoes in her closet as well. The sandal’s that were being referred to in this story were her ‘charity shoes’ she wore them to appear more sacrificial and ‘like the people’ when she was doing charity work. However, when she attended fancy dinners she had a nice pair of high heels (she was a short lady you know). When she traveled around on speaking campaigns she had a good pair of running shoes and a pair of Birkenstocks. Oh, and meeting folks like the Queen or president’s required other shoes that matched her attire for the occasion. Does this diminish the awe you feel at Mother Teresa’s sacrifice? Before, you get to worried and shocked, I completely made up that addition!
Bear with me for a moment while I try to explain what that illustrated. But first, a picture of my shoes:
I didn’t pull these out of the bottom of a bin of donated shoes, I actually purchased them new and have worn them since. I really enjoy my shoes, they’ve served me well and I hope they will continue to. Before you think I’m trying to be all self-righteous let me explain: These are not my only shoes. I like wearing these shoes, but on many occasions I do not. I don’t wear these shoes to work. I didn’t wear them at the wedding I was in this summer. I leave them at home when we are meeting new people or attending a ‘formal’ event. And I don’t just adjust for other people, I have a different pair of shoes to run and bike in, another pair for playing soccer and still another for hiking. Not that self-righteous anymore.
You see, I want to wear Mother Teresa’s shoes. Not literally, but in the sense of the sacrifice that she made by choosing to live a life in such a way that she only had enough for what she needed. Mother Teresa had one pair of shoes, and they seriously messed up her feet. I imagine those are the shoes she met the Queen in, and I don’t think the president scoffed at her when she chose to wear them. Why is it that we recognize and our touched by the sacrifice of Mother Teresa that we here about in a book, but we’d scoff or think it odd if I showed up for a formal dinner with holes in my sneakers? It wouldn’t be very long I think before someone, a co-worker, family member or friend offered me a pair of shoes to replace the ones I have. Few people look at the guy with holes in his shoes and think of it is awe inspiring sacrifice as we do Mother Teresa.