Mother Teresa and Ireland

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier…  I read these words on a 3 by 5 card, chosen randomly from the deck of spiritual reflection cards given to me by a friend to use when traveling.  It was late September and my husband, John, and I were in Westport, County Mayo, southern Ireland as we neared the end of our two weeks of vacation (if you can call it that when you’re both retired).  We were enjoying our last day in the B&B, situated on a river running through this western seacoast town where we were daily awakened by the chatter of ducks. 

In the cozy breakfast room on this last morning of our stay, I had encouraged the fellow travelers, “Ask Sadie about her pet ducks.”  One of the guests from the group of cyclists who seemed eager to get back on the road paused midway through a bite of toast, saying, “No! Really?” and then proceeded to ask the B&B owner to show us her ducks. 

Sadie had introduced us to her pets the first morning we were there, saying that she couldn’t turn away from an orphaned animal.  Her menagerie included the Runner ducks as well as a rescued border collie and a cat she had adopted after it was scooped out of the river.  In our initial conversations, she sensed we were animal lovers with our six border collies and flock of sheep back in Illinois. But after that first morning I decided at breakfast time to instigate these animal introductions with the different groups of guests.

So, this last morning of our stay Sadie disappeared again into the rear of her building.  A few moments later we heard her calling the names of her ducks who trapsed behind her, walking upright and vocalizing as they paraded into the breakfast room.  The guests were delighted and a little incredulous. Sadie then turned around and the ducks exited in single file after her.  The reserved breakfast atmosphere among strangers gave way to laughter and chatter and best wishes for a safe and happy day of travel.

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier, attributed to Mother Teresa , first struck me as pollyanish, but on reflection, stirred me.  I realized I had witnessed the expression of this admonition during the four days with Sadie, John and Noreen.  They had treated each guest as special, as if they were the first ones to arrive at their establishment.  Noreen served us our “full Irish breakfasts” and engaged in friendly conversations about how our night had been and what we had scheduled for a day of sightseeing.  Sadie and her husband had operated the B&B for years without taking any vacations and seemed content with this.  So content, they were able to offer more than beautiful rooms and tasty breakfasts – something that we name as hospitality or a generous spirit, but now I’d like to identify as a spiritual gift.

When I returned home I had the monthly phone conversation with my spiritual director who lives in Ohio, mentioning this experience in Ireland and the spiritual reflection card from Mother Teresa.  Picking up on how such a simple goal could affect people’s lives, she said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every person could start their day with a prayer that she/he be looking for opportunities to live this way?”  It would be easy to smile at a stranger or respond with a kind word to the checkout person at Walmart, but what about the more challenging situations?  A co-worker who seems to be undermining your work, or a grumpy bus driver, or a family member who is holding a grudge.  Perhaps Mother Teresa’s words are just too unrealistic.  And then again, maybe not, especially if one’s intention is to be open to nudges from God’s Spirit.  Also helpful would be a desire to be really present to others in ways that might cover a negative energy with a cloak of sincere compassion.  Who knows what miracles are in God’s plans for you and me today?

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