True Story

Once long ago I yearned to help people. I discerned that most people in my community were receiving some sort of

money or assistance from the government, but very little personal help of a kind nature. I lived by myself and had

no one to care for.

... the 18 of us were classified as “semi-independent” 

I had previously lived in a group home and there were case managers and counselors and staff that could teach

you to clean and cook, but nothing in the way of direct help of a personal nature. There was supervision, but

the 18 of us were classified as “semi-independent” so we were expected to care pretty much for ourselves.

In my new setting in my apartment, things were different. I was by myself. I was a little lonely and wanted to

help people the way I had read the great saints had done.

I struck out

So one day I gathered band-aids and gauze from my bathroom, along with slices of bread from my kitchen.

My feeble attempt was to help the sick and the hungry. I did not know if I would find anyone to help. I

struck out, equipped with some bare necessities of helping. I walked up and down the highway, looking

for someone who needed a wound dressed or needed a meal to eat. I wandered for an hour, but found no one.

The cars sped by, full of drivers and passengers, but no one stopped to avail themselves of my gifts.

Finally, discouraged, I found a flock of crows. I fed the crows what little bread I had carried with me. They

ate ravenously. I was uplifted. In fact I was elated.

I was gracious

I went back to my apartment and decided to write to Mother Teresa of Calcutta and tell her exactly what

had happened. I did not spare any part of the story — I told her everyone was on government assistance

or welfare and did not need my help. I told her exactly what I have related to you, and I ended explaining

that I had graciously fed the birds.

Her sisters wrote a form letter back to me, and Mother herself signed it.

This is what it said:





DEAR Mr. Stephen Saunders

Thank you very much for your letter.

May God reward your generous desire

to love Him in His poor.  Pray much

and Jesus will tell you, if you listen

to Him in Silence, what He want of

you.  He asks of us not to do big thing

-s, but to do little things with great

love;  even a smile can do much to

those who are lonely, unwanted and have

no one to call their own.

Let us pray.


M Teresa M.C. (in her hand)


(Reverse side of letter)

Mary, Mother of Jesus,

give me your heart, so

beautiful, so pure, so

Immaculate, so full of love

and humility that I may

be able to receive Jesus

in the Bread of Life, love

Him as you loved Him and

serve Him in the distressing

disguise of the Poorest

of the Poor


My explanation

So there it is, a simple letter from a simple-minded heart on a “simple path”. But you may ask, what is

this doing in a blog on Long Term Economy? Mine is a spiritual message; does it have a place in this


… there is a “fundamental option” in life ...

In actuality there is a “fundamental option” in life — but people define this in different ways.

It may mean being spiritual vs. being religious to some. To others it may mean being religious vs.

being in business. It could also mean being ethical vs. being unethical, or moral vs. immoral. For

my intent, we do have a place in this blog for social activists and humanitarians. But no specific

principle relating to politics or religion. I offer only one of many possible alternatives to these

activities, beliefs, and principles. If I have offended some, I offer my apologies. I personally believe

that spiritual beliefs go hand-in-hand with other ways of life; for example, it has been said that God

loves diversity. This is an indication that both the religious person and the humanitarian are

good ways. I will leave you to seek the best answer you can find.

Some Research

When we consider long term thinking, we may refer to research and theory. The Her m a n n

Brain Dominance Instrument is one such theory. He considers thinking to fall into one of

four modes. The fourth, of interest to us, is Imaginative thinking.

Key words : Visual, holistic, intuitive, innovative, and conceptual.
Preferred activities : Looking at the big picture, taking initiative,
challenging assumptions, visuals, metaphoric thinking,
creative problem solving, long term thinking.

A glimpse

The letter above is just a glimpse of a certain way. If you don’t have a good way, you need to find one.

Here we are talking lifestyle. But it is also a glimpse of thinking style. Certainly Mother was an imaginative

thinker because she looked at the big picture and challenged the assumptions of many. She used creativity,

but not at the cost of fidelity. Moreover, in her letter she wants us (and those we meet) to be happy. To

say that she is a long term thinker is a bit of a stretch. Her letter is one of discernment; trying to help

another believer see what God wants. I am no expert on discernment, but I know it can take a lifetime.

She was trying to help me see. She was rooted in the here and now, and not necessarily the future.

Her letter reflects that. Long term thinking and specifically sustainability is sometimes called

“far-fetched”. That is only because it remains theoretical. [Steven T r e e s e] But is long term thinking

fanciful? That would be a good starter topic for another article.


I am sure that Mother would want us to use long term thinking because she knew that God gave us all

our faculties, including LT thought. Her m a n n knew that too. So have a good lifestyle and think good

thoughts, and by all means, discern your way. If you can make use of LT thought, you may want to

make that your priority. Thank you for reading!


A simple path
Book by Mother Teresa
92% liked this book
Google users

Description: In A Simple Path, Saint Teresa, senior members of the Missionaries of Charity and volunteers

at their homes around the world offer their advice and long experience of how we can practice a fuller

love for each other, help those less fortunate than ourselves and find peace in doing so. … Google Books

Originally published: 1995

Author: Mother Teresa
Genres: Biography, Christian literature

Some links

Stephen Saunders

Executive Director, Long Term Economy | Member, LTE International Board | Internal Auditor

Stephen Saunders has 25 posts and counting. See all posts by Stephen Saunders

Stephen Saunders

2 thoughts on “Letter from Mother Teresa on Her simple path

  • Vineet Mani

    What touched me was the message to follow simple path by doing simple things. You mentioned it rightly that Long Term thinkers have to be imaginative as it helps us visualize what shall be done in the future and start doing preparations from the present day itself. However, imaginative thinking should be coupled with rational thinking as well as sometimes, imaginative thinking turns into quixotic. It happened to me personally and I cannot state that it may happen with all. But the blend of rationality with imagination yields better outcomes in the long-run. I was fortunate to get boundless blessings of Mother Teresa in person and it was an experience, I cannot simply express in mere words. Thank you, Stephen.

  • Stephen Saunders

    Vineet, I have had two doctor practitioners criticize Mother as they treated me. One told me she “aggrandized” herself, that is, doing little things in a big public way to build her image. The other one did not like the sanitary conditions in which she ran her clinics. I cannot attest to these criticisms as true or false, I have felt as one with Her and do not pay much attention to those accusations.

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