The Meaning of the Medallion


This materially cheap, otherwise priceless, necklace was given to me by the Sisters of Mercy in Kolkata, India, after my niece Sara Potter and I, had spent a day serving with Mother Teresa's humble crew. They serve the last, the lowest, and the least--the most forgotten of God's creation. I have found myself wearing it most days since early November. We weren't permitted to take pictures, or voice opinions. Everyone who came there to serve had to attend the excruciatingly early prayer service (didn't have to pray, but did have to respectfully attend), for they wanted no serving that did not begin in prayer. After that, everyone had to do behind the scenes, non-feel good, no glory jobs for an undetermined period. Sara and I were assigned to clean a very large space/meeting room with cobbled floors and thousands of crevices in this old building that served them--a building that would have been condemned in the US. I had to mop floors with a handmade mop--rag on a stick. It was difficult and long. When I was finished, the tiny little woman in the white and blue habit didn't even inspect it. She just motioned for me to do it again.

Finally we were permitted to go do the glamor jobs, the ones you tell the world about, the ones that make you feel amazing and compassionate. We spent the day caring for disabled, abused, poor street children who would never be adopted. We fed them as they spit and drooled on us. We changed cloth diapers made from rags on 12 and 14 year old children, praying not to gag. Then we did the first step in the washing process of said diapers, because there is no money for disposables or even real cloth diapers. It was beautiful and awful, wonderful and revolting. 

Then they gathered us together after our service, (applauded us---can you imagine???) and gave us our tiny medallions. And then we left, as we do-gooders most often do, and went back to our normal lives. The heroes, the difference makers, were laying down their lives 24/7. They stayed in the pain and the chaos to do the hard work of making it at least a little better for specific individuals with real faces and real pain.

My takeaway: as the Bible says, faith/compassion/opinion without works and sacrifice is dead. I wear my necklace to remind ME that the world as a whole needs my opinions less, and my sacrificial action more. I may not impact the wide world, but I can change the WHOLE world for individuals who are suffering within my sight if I will only go through the world with my lips more often closed and my eyes more often opened. Ecclesiastes 3:7 says there's a time to speak and a time to be silent. May God give me the wisdom to discern. Jesus said the time to serve is always NOW, and that true service means being willing to be last, and laying down my life. Tough stuff. I am praying to be up to it.