He wasn’t supposed to be there. But he was.
He wasn’t supposed to have a press pass. But he did.
As a rookie photojournalist, my husband was handed an opportunity of a lifetime. In June of 1982, he found himself standing within arm’s reach of the Saint of Calcutta.
With many years of photojournalism experience, Allen has been afforded opportunities to photograph numerous presidents and celebrities. He spent countless hours on the infamous “in-field” at the Kentucky Derby, snow-shoed his way along the Alaskan Pipeline, visited war torn countries, dangled from helicopters, climbed bridges and chased planes, trains and automobiles. However, the brief time he spent alongside Mother Teresa was one of the most profound and inspiring moments behind his camera’s lens.
Mother Teresa’s life was an offering. Though known around the globe for her humble service and unconditional love, she undoubtedly impacted individual lives one summer afternoon in a farmer’s field in rural Kentucky. My husband was a life whom she touched.
Mother Teresa had journeyed to Jenkins, Kentucky to oversee the opening of a shelter for battered women as part of her Mission, The Sisters of Charity. She emerged from a Ford LTD and a plain-clothed state trooper escorted her. She made her way across the parking lot, but her progress was slowed by many people approaching and greeting her. She didn’t appear to mind. The children, especially, drew her attention. The afternoon progressed quietly with a Mass, a press conference, and people waiting their turn to catch a glimpse of the tiny lady with the gentle smile.
When Allen first shared the story with me, it was obvious the impact it made on him. For all he witnessed in her that day, love, compassion, patience, and kindness, Allen was most struck by what he did not see. Pride. Though showered with attention and accolades, her response was simple, genuine humility. Even during the press conference, when all eyes were on her, she sat with her head bowed as others spoke of her tireless work and commitment.
By Allen’s own admission, humility was foreign for a young, ambitious photojournalist. He didn’t understand it. He sought to create ripples of influence and point people’s attention toward his achievements, toward himself. But that afternoon, something changed for him. Mother Teresa’s unpretentious presence helped point a young man toward the cross of Jesus Christ.
And shouldn’t it be so for all of us who follow Jesus? Shouldn’t our lives point others to Him? I recently heard a Christian film director give an acceptance speech for an award he won. He sheepishly confessed that in his younger years he practiced speeches in front of his mirror, fine tuning just what he would say in front of all the Hollywood elites when he won the coveted prize. It was all about him back then, but now his award was because of a film he made that was all about Jesus. Someone in his life had pointed him toward the cross of Christ and today his words and attitude reflect his Savior, not himself. As a teen and young adult, I wore a cross necklace. These days, I have a simple wooden cross displayed in our home. For me, the cross is a reminder of Christ’s obedience, His love and His humility. Jesus is our perfect example of all three.
I am grateful for Allen’s encounter with Mother Teresa and grateful for Allen’s teachable spirit. Pointing others toward Jesus should be our mission. Sometimes it involves sharing our story, sometimes it involves listening to another person’s story. And sometimes it involves less words and more action. Regardless, I am convinced of this…it always involves getting ourselves out of the way and pointing others toward Him.