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.