“I do not add up, I only subtract from the number of poor and dying in the world.” -Mother Teresa

Looking at what’s going on in the world today, it can be very easy to become depressed or feel defeated. It’s hard for us as adults to make sense of things sometimes, and it’s even harder for a child to understand all the hardship that goes on. And for those people that are doing things to help alleviate problems, it can feel like they aren’t doing enough, and the world’s problems can seem insurmountable. However, we can learn from the story of Mother Teresa that we don’t need to worry about what we’re doing not adding up to much. Like Mother Teresa, it’s better to think about it in terms of what we’re subtracting from the negative things in the world.

Reading the story of Mother Teresa is a great starting point for a discussion with your children or students about this subject, especially older ones as they become more aware of the world around them. Maybe your child or a student has seen a news story that has them questioning the extreme poverty some people live in, or maybe they themselves live in a neighborhood where they see a lot of homeless people . They might feel like they want to do something, but may feel that there’s nothing they can do that will make a meaningful change in the world.

Going back to Mother Teresa’s quote, “I do not add up, I only subtract from the number of poor and dying in the world”, talk with your child about what this means to them. Whatever they’re able to do, however little, may not add up to much, but it does make a difference by taking away from any suffering. You can talk together about things your child can do to help, whether it’s collecting food or clothes for the needy, or making care baskets for children at the hospital.

Another of Mother Teresa’s quotes you can share with your child is, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” So even though you may only be able to offer very little, that little bit matters. Without the help you or your child may be giving, the world would feel that much more suffering.

For more advice using the story of a Mother Teresa as a backdrop, see this blog post.