nunMore and more lately I have contemplated a documentary film I watched last year on the life of Mother Teresa.

I can’t remember the film’s name (probably something catchy like “Mother Teresa”) but I remember oh-so-clearly what she said when asked about her fundraising efforts to support her worldwide ministry.

In one segment of the film, a young man asks for her permission to do some formal fundraising on her organization’s behalf. Unbelievably, Mother Teresa declines. She explains that when she needs money, she prays, and that has always seemed to work well.

I love this so much. Here is why.

My method when fundraising for the nonprofit I founded, MentorCONNECT, is typically to worry myself sick, then vent to our board about how we need cash, then have several doomsday dreams about running out of funds, all the while muttering indistinct prayer-type requests to whomever happens to be within earshot (seen or unseen) and eventually thanking our lucky stars when funding inevitably flows in from some totally unexpected source.

Recently it occurred to me that if I take out all the worrying, the venting and the doomsday prophecies, what I am left with is faith. Shallow and shot through with anxiety though it may be, still the seeds of faith are clearly there. 

I wonder how Mother Teresa did it – I have heard she struggled mightily at times to even believe God was real. Of course a belief in “God” or any spiritual entity has as much to do with how each person defines what they believe in as it does with forming the belief itself, but still – it can’t have been easy as she walked through the streets of Calcutta, her eyes and ears continually filling with the sights and sounds of catastrophic human suffering.

Every day I too struggle to make sense of why bad people do bad things to good people (and all the other various permutations thereof). Every day I too hear true confessions of deep suffering from the folks who join MentorCONNECT seeking comfort, support and hope. Each and every day I confront the absolute fact that MentorCONNECT itself is built on little more than heartfelt intentions and volunteer labor – mine and others. More than once per day I may find myself challenged to believe what we are doing is helping – or that I can stand even one more day of cohabitating so closely with the suffering of others.

But if Mother Teresa could do it – somehow replace anxiety with faith – I feel like absolutely I can do it too.

This is the power of mentors. Or at least it is to me. This is the method by which I have always reliably chosen the most excellent mentors who continue to populate my life today. I look around me, see someone amazing doing something amazing, and then I attach myself to them by whatever means necessary (in Mother Teresa’s case, through films, books and, well, prayer as best I can). Then I proceed to attempt to learn from their example each and every day of my life.

Many of my most cherished mentors have been people I will never meet face to face. But in my heart I feel their presence, guiding and inspiring me, believing in me through sheer force of faith, for no other reason than this: if they could do it then I can too.

Today’s Takeaway: How do you choose your mentors? How do you learn from their example and their lives?

Mother Teresa image available from Shutterstock.