Mother Teresa's Feet and Sacrificial Giving

An excerpt from Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (167-168).

There’s an old story from the desert fathers and mothers, people of deep faith who found it necessary to go into the desert to find God. They lived in little clusters of communities (much the way many of our communities now live, only our desert is the inner cities and abandoned places of the empire). Someone had brought one of the communities a bundle of grapes as a gift. That was quite a delicacy, maybe sort of like giving someone chocolate truffles today. They got so excited, and what happened next is fascinating. Rather than devour them all, they didn’t eat a single one. They passed them on to the next community to enjoy. And that community did the same thing. And eventually, those grapes made it through every community and back to the first community without being eaten. Everyone simply wanted the others to experience the joy of the gift. I’m not sure what ever ended up happening with those grapes. I think maybe they had a big party, or maybe they made some wine. But no doubt God was happy. One of the quotes on my wall reminds me of this daily: “The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them away.”

Mother Teresa was one of those people who sacrificed great privilege because she encountered such great need. People often ask me what Mother Teresa was like. Sometimes it’s like they wonder if she glowed in the dark or had a halo. 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.