These feet were made for Love


We live in a society that is obsessed with the pursuit of perpetual youth and beauty. We spend thousands of dollars for things to make us have less wrinkles, less brown spots, less pounds, less grey, more hair, bigger eyes, brighter smiles, longer nails, prettier nails, prettier toes, less sags, less bags…. that list goes on and on into the next list of the thousands of dollars spent on cosmetic treatments— the cosmetic augmentation, not because of a medical need such as a breast reconstruction due to a battle with cancer, but rather simply because we want to look prettier, handsomer, lighter, thinner, taller, younger……lift the eyes, the boobs, the butt, the stomach, fill in the lips, the cheeks, the calves, add the hair, smooth out the wrinkles—on and on it goes….It makes me wonder if any one is happy with themselves?

I wish things like all of that didn’t matter. I think it would make all of our lives better; we’d probably be happier and a little wealthier as we wouldn’t be throwing money to the pursuit of glamour and youth. Our society is so obsessed with the physical attributes of a person that we sometimes forget about the internal attributes—the quality of the soul and of a life well lived. Turn on any television and the reality shows, the “entertainment” news (I use the word news very loosely here), and our obsession with the Hollywood who’s who and who wore what and how did they look and oh my how they’ve gained weight…

When I was in the classroom, I kept a copy of this photograph on my classroom door. Adults are bad enough fretting over the glitzy and the glamorous—adolescents have a doubly difficult time dealing with the whole issue of the “image of self.” If you don’t understand that ask any kid who struggles with anorexia, bulimia, cutting, addictions and suicidal goals.

The photo I placed on my door was backed with a simple black sheet of mat board. I had written on the mat “these feet never complained—they just kept moving in the name of Love”
I can’t take credit for the photograph as it comes for a most wonderful book:
Works of Love are Works of Peace
Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the
Missionaries of Charity

A Photographic Record by Michael Collopy

As the kids would walk in and out of class, or the multitude of other kids just walking down the hall, many would stop to look at the picture. They stopped because the image is somewhat troubling. Teenagers aren’t the best equipped when it comes to tact—they tend to be brutally honest in their observations—there were a lot of “ooo, gross”, “man, those are some sorry looking feet”, and then there are a few things I can’t repeat (or I choose not to repeat). Many of the kids did not recognize the iconic striped white tunic. I don’t think if the image was in color, bearing the lovely blue of the stripe, that many would still recognize whom it was. That was where I came in–offering a simple answer.

The kids would ask whose feet. When I told them, that pretty much answered what I knew to be their next question…why would I have a picture of such “ugly” feet up on my door? All I had to say was “oh, those feet you ask…those are Mother Teresa’s feet.” That pretty much answered everything else. Mother Teresa is good that way.

She was 85 when that picture was taken. They are the feet of someone who didn’t care about the shiny nail polish or the latest pedicure. Nor was there any concern for the latest designer pair of shoes. There wasn’t time for such frivolous things when there were people hungry and dying that needed tending to.

I’m certain by the end of each day, Mother Teresa’s feet hurt. I’m certain that as she got up each morning and took that first step, there was pain. But in Mother Teresa’s world there simply wasn’t time to worry or bother with aching feet. She had to be about the important tasks of each new day—and that was tending to the basic needs of other human beings. No worries over fancy new shoes, no worries with whiter teeth, no worries about lifting things that are sagging or coloring things turning grey…nope, just the tending to people who are hungry, lonely, sick, dying, scared…

Maybe we’d be better off if we thought like Mother Teresa. I kind of think we would be, and maybe happier too.

8 comments on “These feet were made for Love

  1. This posting truly moves me!! I am by no means more selfless than those around me, probably far less! But I wanted to share…I decided at an early age (about age 21) that I was going to live my life using my hands. No time for plastic gloves, lotion when they became dried out, no investment in manicures…just use my hands. There were babies to raise, dishes to wash, work to do, so I just decided I’d USE them, just like my Big Mama did as she worked the earth to raise vegetables to share with an entire community. Her hands always captivated me. They were such honest, hard-working hands that could somehow miraculously caress away all of my pain!! Now, I look at mine today (over age 21!!), and I’m amazed at how worn they look. How many wrinkles and crevices line the backs. But, what is so beautiful, is that they look just like Big Mama’s!! How I miss her hands…

  2. Pearl Kirkby says:

    Mother Teresa has been a great inspiration to me since I was a young woman and first became aware of her existence. Her tireless answer to the call of her servant’s heart is the stuff of legend, in my honest, heartfelt opinion. Thanks for offering up such a beautiful post (found on Kentucky Angel’s site).

    I wanted to add a response to Miss Phyllis, who will surely understand how precious my memory is:

    When I was just a tyke, I used to love to stay the weekend at my Aunt Ethel’s and Uncle G.I.’s house. They lived in the country…he was a farmer, she was the typical farmer’s wife, unafraid of hard work, and believe you, me, with a husband who worked sun-up to sundown, a son who worked the same hours as a blacksmith and 3 gorgeous daughters, she needed to be unafraid!

    I stayed at their house all summer, once, and one of the strongest memories of my life was walking in on my aunt crying at the kitchen table, while my uncle stood her over her, at a loss, just patting her on her shoulder and trying to get her to tell what was troubling her so.

    Aunt Ethel sobbed and held up her rough, worn, man-strong hands in front of her and sobbed, “Look at these hands…” (she clenched her fists and shook them in front of her), “…just look at these ugly, fat, worn out hands…” (and then she dropped her face into them and sobbed even more piteously). “They’re…so…UGLY! I used to have such pretty hands. NOW LOOK AT THEM!”

    Uncle G.I.’s own rough, calloused hands pulled Aunt Ethel toward him and he knelt by her side and, hugging her tightly with one arm, he held her hands in his other hand, as if displaying them.

    “You hear me, now. I see these hands every day, washing clothes, digging weeds, cleaning house, milking the cow and gathering eggs. They have tended to five children and still are able to bring a grown son to his knees if he gets out of line. They know where my shoulders hurt after I plow a field and they hold a Bible steady in church, then fold over mine when we pray.”

    Uncle G.I. pulled Aunt Ethel to her feet and held her so close and tenderly. He cupped his hand around her cheek and made her look at him. “These hands,” he said as he kissed each palm, “…these hands are beautiful.”

    I stood, just out of the way, watching this, and I REMEMBER my heart breaking for the love I felt between them. It was like a warm wave. I felt that, even though I was only 5. It was the first time I understood what “a heart for service” meant…and how deep love could go, and how completely it could cover all pain.

    Feet, hands…heart. Mother Teresa, Aunt Ethel…Phyllis’s Big Mama. They all are what God meant when He said to be an ensample to all of mankind.

    Thank you both for bringing forth that memory.

  3. lisa says:

    Do I need permission to use this photo? How did you obtain it?

    • Hi Lisa–
      In the post accompaning the picture, I listed the book and photographer who took the photograph and the book in which he published it…
      Works of Love are Works of Peace
      Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the
      Missionaries of Charity
      A Photographic Record by Michael Collopy

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