For the Ragged and Beautiful


In 2002, my dear friend Nicole Gillin and I volunteered together with a small team serving at Mother Teresa’s Home for Abandoned Children in Nairobi. We’ve never been the same. Last week we collaborated to create this dance to share our changed hearts at the Flourish 2016 Recital. 

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

When she walked the broken streets of Calcutta, her very bones ached from un-peace. All around her, the sick, abandoned, and impoverished groaned for peace.

DSC_0096Their cries lit a tiny, subversive spark in her heart. It begged her to make a choice: remain in a safe and familiar religious life, or risk it all in the teeming choas of impoverished streets beyond.

The flame burned too hot to keep. No longer could she see the dying man in the gutter as an unfortunate but inevitable part of the urban landscape. No longer could she accept unwanted, abandoned babies as the status quo.

DSC_0097Enough! She resolved to go down in flames or let God light a bonfire through her to warm the masses.

She shut the door on her former life, and never looked back.

Mother Teresa – larger-than-life, mythic in the rear-view mirror of history. But, then, she was just a fragile wisp venturing into slums where people greeted her with suspicion and rejection, into decaying flesh and rotting sewage, into the moans of the dying.

DSC_0099In my memories I hear a jubilant song in Swahili. It swells through a Nairobi slum church. Girls from a Mother Teresa orphanage dance and sing in a center aisle procession. Surprised, I see a young American boy leading them: my oldest son, four years old, head held high as he carries a rose to the altar. He lifts it to a priest, who holds it before the shining faces of young women draped in the signature white-and-blue-striped saris of the Mother Teresa order.

Your lives are like this rose,” the priest says.

DSC_0100He gives it to one of the women at the end of the row and asks her to pass it. He explains: your lives will be like the rose, continually passed from person to person. Like the rose, you will become ragged and spent. Your very lives will be your offering. Even so, you will spread hope, beauty, and peace to many.

These are the modern day followers of Mother Teresa, the Missionaries of Charity.

A Kenyan baby nestles on my lap that day, his liquid brown eyes drinking love like desert sand. My newly adopted son, I clutch him a little tighter. Thanksgiving surges through my heart for these women who saved his life.

Down through the decades, the blaze fueled by Mother Teresa’s choice to follow the call to make peace, no matter the cost, changed the world. It changed my life.

Blessed are the peacemakers, those willing to lay down their very lives to love a suffering world with the Heart of God, a flame that burns eternal. They are the children of God.


My son Jedd with Sr. Fidence and Sr. Jamesina, who saved his life.

Also at the recital, I displayed some of my work and two paintings created by Mark and Sammy, now members of the Sanctuary of Hope family, who also  their lives in the Mother Teresa home.

And below are photos of the beautiful Flourish dancers from the recital, beginning and ending with the rose, ragged and spent, spreading beauty and peace wherever it goes:


If the video link above does not work, please visit my Facebook page to view the collaborative reading/dance: Art by Colleen Briggs


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