Sunday of our third weekend, the day after our Community Service Day, seems to be the first day off we had where nothing was planned. We didn’t even make plans to meet at a specific time for breakfast. Somehow most of us ended up at breakfast around the same time anyway (later than normal after a long day and late dinner out), and Sylvia said “Guys, I did some inquiring and found out there is a Mass at 4:30 this afternoon. Anyone interested?” She had mentioned a day or two before that this had been the longest period of time in her life without going to Mass.
Before I go any further, yes, I am going to get into a little faith/religion in this entry, and those are topics that aren’t necessarily thought of as appropriate for the private sector workplace, certainly not in Western culture. I was surprised during our 12 weeks of pre-work and training for CSC that one assignment included an article that addressed the role of faith in the “board room.” Obviously “preaching,” proselytizing, and the like have no place in the work place, and I’m not one to engage in that sort of thing in any situation, much less at work. But the point of the article was that there is no reason for us to be uncomfortable relying on our personal faith traditions, whatever those may be, if any, when it comes to business dealings, and it is particularly pertinent to Corporate Social Responsibility programs like CSC.
I don’t mind, at all, sharing that I am a person of faith. I will say my faith is inclusive and embracing. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t think anyone does, and if the second part of that statement offends you, I apologize, but that’s where I am. I think my views on things transcend mere words; some will find it contradictory to say that I fully embrace the tenets of my faith but that I nevertheless have what you might call a “liberal” theological outlook. As far as I am concerned, one of the most beautiful, and faithful, things I can do is to embrace and accept everyone wherever they are: Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, Agnostic, Atheist, and whoever else I am missing. Hugs for all, and peace and goodwill to all!
So, Natasja, Alê, and I accepted the invitation with what I’m sure were a mixture of unique and overlapping reasons. I am a Protestant, raised Episcopalian (the US version of the Church of England), and currently Presbyterian. Denominations, and even the delineations between Orthodox or Catholic or Protestant aren’t important to me. Besides, it seems like in my family history someone changes denominations or wholesale religions every time there’s a wedding. We seem to favor those that won’t frown on us having a few adult beverages, but I digress.
Our driver had a little bit of a tough time finding the church. He took us to “a” church, but it wasn’t “the” church (or even Catholic). After a few more tries we finally found it, and I’m not sure how we missed it because it was large and included a school and pretty sizeable grounds. We were greeted by a priest, in part because 4 Westerners do stand out arriving at a Mass in Jaipur, India. He shared with us that this was a special Mass, to be held outdoors, celebrating the Canonization of Saint Teresa. He escorted us to seats near the front and not far from a large number of Sisters from Saint Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. There were easily 2000 people there to celebrate Mass, perhaps more.
The vast majority of the service was in Hindi. The Old Testament lesson, from one of the chapters of Isaiah (I was paying attention!), was read in English. I know there was a New Testament reading, because one of the priests said (in English) that there would be, but, though I listened for it intently, it never came. Well, I’m sure it did, in Hindi, but that did my brain little good even if I humbly assume it did my soul some good. The music and hymns were generally not familiar. Most sounded very “Eastern” and/or Indian, some were accompanied by liturgical dance, and it was all uplifting and awesome (remember: I’m a music nut!). I spent a lot of the service contemplating what we had experienced and accomplished during the prior three weeks and at the Community Service Day just one day earlier. I know I should be listening at church, but given that I couldn’t understand most of what was being said, it seemed appropriate to the place and occasion.
One phrase that was repeated throughout the service, in English, but usually book ended by lots of Hindi, was a quote from Mother Teresa: “We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” This hit me, big time. I started thinking about why I, and my colleagues, applied for the CSC program. We all do, and have for years, things in our community to make a difference, but usually they are discrete, “small” if you will. An hour here, a day there, maybe even a week. CSC gives those who are selected and deployed a chance to devote four entire weeks to serving some of the most challenging, “big ask” needs in the global community. And that is only addressing the four weeks on the ground; this doesn’t count the pre-work, nor the ongoing post deployment work inherent in the program. Even with four weeks, I know we all asked ourselves, “How much difference can we make in four weeks?” That goes beyond being a fair question to ask; it’s the right question to ask. The implications are enormous, and the possible answers are innumerable. Saint Teresa’s assertion does provide an answer. I wouldn’t go so far as to describe everything we accomplished over our four weeks as “small,” but we didn’t eradicate poverty or cure cancer, either. But I know my friends very well (I’ve called them colleagues in this blog, and they are that, too, but they are friends above all), and while we all acted out of a variety of motivations, one that I can assure you we all have in common is great love. Saint Teresa’s words brought me comfort, and they told us that rather than worrying about whether the hour, or the month, or the smile, or the ½ a leftover meal, or the 10 Rupees, make a “difference,” know that they do, especially when done with gratitude and love. Her words tell us to keep going, that the drops in the ocean do add up.
I believe that. I really do. But I also wonder if Saint Teresa isn’t challenging me/us. Why can’t I/we do great things? Isn’t that why I/we applied to CSC in the first place? In her wisdom, is she not only telling us to proceed with the “small things,” with great love, but perhaps making us a little angry and provoking us to bigger things? Well done, Saint Teresa! I am humbled to have spent some time with you in spirit during our four weeks. Long before Sylvia mentioned missing Mass, I had already thought about the fact that Saint Teresa was canonized while we were in India. To accidentally end up at a Mass celebrating that, in India, two weeks later, well, I can’t find the words to describe how that feels. Thank you, Sylvia, for initiating this serendipitous experience, thank you, IBM, for making it possible, and thank you, Sylvia, Alê, and Natasja for sharing it with me.
It’s almost midnight. My wife, Melody, is sound asleep, and the dishwasher needs to be unloaded. It’s the least I can do for now 🙂 #ibmcsc #india32
The views expressed in this blog represent my own personal views and not necessarily those of IBM. That said, if IBM doesn’t like The Beatles, then IBM should really think about starting to like The Beatles.