What is A World Changer?
Posted by Naomi Zacharias, on July 13, 2017
Topic: News Magazine
In a March publication of Harpers Bazaar, author Jennifer Wright speaks out against what she describes as the glorification as motherhood. “The glorification of motherhood implies that a woman’s main purpose is not to change the world,” she writes. Defining the legitimacy of a job by perceived authority, recognition, and financial compensation, Wright concludes that motherhood lends itself to none of these, particularly in that it pays no money. “The most important jobs are the ones that come with the most respect and power,” she says. Examples include Fortune 500 CEO’s or the President of the United States, relegating world changers to a narrow sphere. Were not such influencers birthed by mothers? Arguably, motherhood is to change the world, whether it is in the growing of a human being that will add to the world population or profoundly influencing the way an entire person develops psychologically, mentally, and spiritually. For every human being is poised and sure to influence his or her community for better or for worse. Wright’s words pierce in sharp contrast to those of Mother Teresa, the humanitarian and 1971 Nobel Peace Prize winner who reaped international respect for her life of advocacy and dedication to those marginalized by society. It was of her that then President Bill Clinton thoughtfully said, “It is hard to argue with a life so well lived.” Much could be said in defense of motherhood to Wright’s article. Perhaps a sufficient response is simply a quote from the remarkable woman who once said: “If you want to be a world changer, go home and love your family.”
Yet such statements of today do not only speak to every woman and mother, specifically, for their implications reach deep into many facets of society. If the legitimacy of a job or the definition of changing the world is dependent on earnings and prestige, what does this mean for the humanitarian aid worker, teacher, manager of a soup kitchen, or legal aid lawyer? These are not positions that typically garner a sweeping power or high compensation, yet they are critical to the well-being of any community. What of influencers like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Mother Teresa? While we–and history–rightly bestow admiration upon them, they were not individuals awarded financial comfort. With a truly powerful demonstration of courage, they lived to advocate for respect for others, with two of them even dying at the hand of an assassin for their cause. Was that the sign of power as defined by Wright’s inferences? Ah, but did they not change the world?
What does it mean to be a world changer?
It was Mother Teresa who cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony for a largely unknown home in India called Little Drops. Allow me to introduce you to Paul, a man who left a respectable position in the airline industry to open this home for the homeless elderly destitute. He was inspired by Mother Teresa’s home in Calcutta, and since 1991, Paul has dedicated himself to giving care and respect to elderly men and women previously abandoned on the streets. The first time I met him, he was carrying a stretcher that held a man whose right hand was horribly infected and had been eaten away by maggots. He can walk through the rooms of the simple structure they have built, calling each of the 280 residents by name. His kind eyes look directly at each one as he folds his hands with respect to greet them, recounting their story and something specific to their personality. “This gentleman builds the most beautiful boats out of scrap pieces of wood,” he might tell you. “This lady grew up in an orphanage. he loves to sing and her favorite hymn is Amazing Grace,” he might say as he encourages Gracie to belt out her song for you, much to her glowing delight. A friend of mine once visited Little Drops. “I do not want to believe Christianity is true,” she said. “But I’ll tell you, the one thing that has ever made me doubt my certainty is meeting Paul,” she reluctantly admitted.
On a recent trip to India our Senior Project Analyst, Rachel Davis, visited Little Drops to conduct our annual review. She shared the story that Paul’s daughter is preparing for her wedding and that she has chosen for it to take place on the Little Drops property. There will be other family and friends present, but the honored guests for this celebrated occasion will be the elderly residents of Little Drops.
What an incredible picture this is, what a story it tells. In Matthew 19:30, Jesus describes the “new world” where the Son of Man will sit on his throne. “But many who are first will be last, and the last first,” he tells his disciples.
A wedding feast to come in Chennai is one of the beautiful glimpses in this flawed world of the one to come. For the Kingdom does have a presence on earth, in the here and now, for 280 elderly women and men in the outskirts of the populous city of Chennai. Their life stories are varied, with a shared thread. In the latter years, they were abandoned and alone. They were living on the street without food, medical care, or shelter from the rains and the heat. They were not seen with respect. In fact, they were not seen at all by most who passed by. Until a man named Paul drove up on his little scooter or with his small ambulance and brought them home. And now, at one of the most celebratory events for an Indian family, they will be the guests of honor. Perhaps there will be corporate leaders, businessmen, and women, entrepreneurs, or scholars. There may be some who are financially rich. But it is the elderly man who carves boats out of scraps of wood and the elderly woman with the untrained voice who sings Amazing Grace at the top of her lungs who will sit at the high table.
Perhaps Harpers Bazaar journalist Jennifer Wright has not met someone like Paul. His is not a powerful position; it is simply a powerful life. How he has changed the world for hundreds; how he has given voice to thousands and so beckoned us several thousand miles away to want to be more and to do better. Influenced by a woman who chose to live a very simple, even meager life to help those hurting, Paul carried the torch forward. To see Mother Teresa’s humble home, her simple sari, her possessions given for her work with the less fortunate, the ultra petite nun from Algeria did not have an important job by Wright’s definition. Following in her footsteps, Paul’s aim is not to harness power, but instead to empower another, to give respect rather than scramble to gain it from a world with ever shifting values and definitions.
With his humility, his dedication, his vision, his emptying of self, perhaps the man who rides his old scooter down the long and dusty road in Chennai has one of the most respectable and important jobs of our time.