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A Wealth of the Spirit

~by Rukmini Walker

Once Mother Teresa said that the poverty she saw in the streets of Kolkata was not as severe as the poverty she saw in Europe and America. What did she mean by that?

She said that the poverty she saw in the Western countries was a poverty of the spirit. A more extreme and insidious poverty than the poverty of hunger, disease or homelessness that she witnessed each day in her compassionate work in the slums of Kolkata.

This is counterintuitive to everything we’ve grown up believing about the American Dream, or wherever you’re from – the dream of an affluent society.

In the past few months, my husband and I have spent time among some very poor and simple people in Bangladesh, India and Cambodia. Being with them causes us to question our own needs and values. How can they live with so little? And with such generosity toward a guest, and with such contentment?

As they give and serve, I say thank you for each small gesture. And they gently reprimand me. “Don’t say thank you. This is our culture. This is our fortune, to serve a guest like you.” Each time, I’m left speechless. How can I reciprocate such kind of love?

I come from a culture where there is a poverty of the spirit, and they are enriched with a wealth of the spirit. I have so much to learn…

All the best,

Rukmini Walker