Mother Teresa died Sept. 5, 1997. On the day she died, we happened to be on a retreat in the small town of New Harmony, Indiana. The retreat was held at a beautiful inn known for its quiet simplicity as well as its wonderful food. The weather had turned dry, clear and crisp with the first hint of autumn. Flowers still bloomed beside the inn doors. A dwarf apple tree with its limbs heavy with fruit had been pruned to grow on a trellis against a wall.
Our retreat master happened to be Archabbot Lambert Reilly, OSB. By some stroke of coincidence, he had also given retreats for Mother Teresa and her sisters in Calcutta. Throughout the weekend, he shared his memories from the time he had spent with them.
Our retreat actually became a meditation on the power and beauty of a single life that is completely focused on Christ. At the end of the weekend, we realized a "golden crumb" had fallen into our laps.
A "golden crumb" is what we've come to call these beautiful, unexpected gifts that fall from the Bread of Life when we least expect them and often when we need them the most. While some people plan for the day when they will win the lottery or save for a trip around the world, we rely on these small unexpected crumbs of joy to provide the seasoning in the stew we refer to as our life.
Golden crumbs are the wilted flowers offered from the hand of child, the phone call from a friend far away, the rose that blooms in November, or the mechanic who once fixed our car before we left on vacation. He was the father of several children and, having a keen appreciation for family finances, he insisted we must take our trip first and pay him later.
The older we become, the more we realize how priceless it is not only to receive golden crumbs, but to drop these into other people's lives. Each golden crumb we catch reminds us that we have the power to spread small gifts in front of other hungry souls. The deeper we draw our own spiritual nourishment from the Bread of Life, the easier it becomes to feed other people.
We are convinced that if all the lotteries and other pie-in-the-sky schemes designed to make us hungry for things we don't need and can't have were to disappear from the face of the earth, we could still be quite satisfied with nothing more than golden crumbs.
To be thankful is to be grateful for all that is. When we stop and begin to realize all that we have, the need for "more" fades and our appreciation for what we have increases. Perhaps gratitude really is about where our lives are focused.
A life focused on Christ is a life focused on love. Based on love, gratitude brings joy. Eventually, gratitude becomes not a now-and-then experience, but a way of life. In the presence of gratitude, there is always an abundance of whatever we really need. Who would have guessed it might be possible to feast our way through life on golden crumbs?