IN A ROOM OF A CONVENT in the Boston area, about 18 kids and their parents waited for a woman named Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The children were dressed in their best clothes, wonderful clothes bought in some cases just for this occasion -- just for the meeting. Yesterday, Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize. Before that, she had saved the lives of these children.
It was April and still cold. The parents and the kids milled around. Some of the adults there were in the process of adopting children from India through Mother Teresa. They had clutched snapshots of the children they had been promised and waited like the others.
Suddenly, the door opened and Mother Teresa swept in. She was dressed in a sari, and sandals and an old sweater with holes in it. She is an old woman, old and looking like the Yugoslavian peasant she would have been had she not gone to India. She moved swiftly to the children and they to her.
She touched the children and marveled at their clothing, paying very little attention to the adults. There was a boy there, in America a short time, and Mother Teresa recognized him. She said something to him in his native Hindu and he pretended he did not understand. He was an American now and he was pretending he didn't know who she was. She understood and she smiled.
A woman stepped forward. The woman had a picture of a little girl she was in the process of adopting. The girl had a scar of some sort on her head. w She had been found at the door of the New Delhi orphanage, abandoned. The woman handed Mother Teresa the picture. She looked down at it. "Don't worry," Mother Teresa said. "It will be all right."
The woman said nothing and soon Mother Teresa was gone.She left quickly, sort of sweeping out of the room, spending no more than 15 minutes with the people there. It doesn't matter. They will never forget it.
Months later, the girl in the snapshot came to America. She came after lots of forms were filled out and lots of papers stamped and after people stayed up all night, working the typewriter and signing documents. There was a rush, a race to beat the heat of the summer. The Indian courts were going to close for the summer and then no adoptions could take place.
In the beginning of July, the plane arrived. It laned at Logan Airport and it contained 13 children from Mother Teresa's orphanage. The children were accompanied by stewardesses and other airline personnel who gave up their free time to make the trips. One by one, the children were transferred to their new parents and then, in the night, put into cars and driven to homes, throughout the Boston area.
Mother Teresa did this many times. She did it with single parents and parents who were not of her religion. She did it not without having to be persuaded and not without reluctance because she is, after all, a very religious woman, but she did it because she loved children and loved life. At first, it was very complicated, but it turned out to be that simple.
The little girl in the snapshot was named Lillian. Other kids got names like Sean and Timothy and Kevin. It is this way in Boston. It is different elsewhere. Mother Teresa, after all, has saved thousands of kids. Lillian was just one of them.
Lillian had her troubles at first. She ate everything she could and she did not understand that her clothes were her own and at night she had terrifying dreams. All this changed in time. She forgot her language and she learned English and those who know her know she is very bright.
It is the same with the other kids. They have all done well. You have to see them to believe it, but they are easy to see. There are lots of them, although not so many as before. It is tougher now to adopt, tougher yet for single parents and people who are not Catholic.
Recently, Lillian became a citizen. Her mother took her by the hand and they went to the courthouse in Boston and a judge swore them in with about 60 other people. Lillian was very pleased with the whole affair and so was her mother. Then they had lunch.
Lillian is still very young so it would be senseless to ask her what she thinks about Mother Teresa getting the Nobel Prize. She would not know what to say. Once, about two years ago, she was watching the news on television when she saw a picture of Mother Teresa. She was coloring in a book and she put down the crayon and said, "Oh, it's mother. Hi, mother." Then she went back to her coloring. By now she may have even forgotten the woman who saved her life.
But we have not. I am her uncle and driving to work yesterday I heard the news about Mother Teresa. The radio said that she had won the Nobel Prize for Peace. That's what the awards committee said. Pardon us, though, for thinking she had won it for Lillian.