April 4, 2019 | Theresa Matthews
A few years ago, I was writing a paper. The assignment was “Why be moral?” In the course of researching this paper, I came across a quote by Mother Teresa that has affected how I think about our struggles to stay healthy. Mother Teresa was quoted as saying:
“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”
I couldn’t help but see the truth of this in my own life. I recall occasions where I was impatient or short with a loved one, but went out in public and treated strangers with utmost courtesy. I recall being a child and being courteous with my friends yet coming home and being quite a brat with my siblings.
As I reflected on the issue of health, it occurred to me to take Mother Teresa’s guidance another step further. I observed that it is easier to love and support those in our own homes than to love and nourish oneself. I have been very careful to feed my dog AJ grain-free, corn-free, additive-free food. I also make sure he is properly exercised. At the same time, I have observed that for myself I will sometimes yearn for an unhealthy snack and sometimes give in, something I would never do with AJ because of my boundless love for him and the sense that to do less for him would actually be an act of unkindness.
Achieving and maintaining health is therefore ultimately an act of self-love. Why then is it so darn hard to marshal our self-love and use it to help us make better choices?
I have spent quite some time pondering this and there are no simple answers, and certainly none that apply equally for all. I for one was raised with a lot of confusion as to what love looked like, tasted like, and felt like. I was rewarded by being able to watch TV if I did my homework. The achievement and excellent work were not revered as the reward. Rather, doing something rather mindless was the treat. Coming home from school, I was greeted with a glass of milk and exactly three Oreos arranged in a perfect triangle on a dessert plate. If I was welcomed with a hug and kiss, I don’t recall that at all. What I recall are the Oreos, the stand-in for Mom’s love and later in life, a tool I used to vainly try to recapture warm feeling of affection.
Whatever the events of our lives, our habits come from often well-meaning gestures that over time fail to work their magic. As Mother Teresa taught us, the cup of rice, the Oreo, is much easier than truly connecting with one another and, ultimately with one’s own heart and soul. This is the mother lode of personal power and happiness. This is the ultimate purpose of life—to discover our own sacredness and to minister to ourselves with unbridled love. Walking this path, peeling this onion layer by layer, is a key element in our pursuit of health for there is no more powerful medicine than self-love!
I do however have a theory…to the extent that we associate fun and celebration with good choices, they transform from work to play, from obligations to treats, from drudgery to life elixirs. Imagine if when you returned from school with a good grade, your parents turned on music and danced with you to celebrate your achievement versus sitting with a plate of Oreos? Which one sounds like more of a treat? We get to decide whether self-love, good choices, and achievement are obligations in life or the treats we get to give ourselves. So…what are the treats you will be rewarding yourself with today??