Reaching Beyond Ourselves

Published: November 27, 2013

By Jim Lichtman
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I’ve written about the significance of faith before. Although it is not an ethical value, its importance in driving ethical conduct should not be underestimated. In fact, the word faith comes from the Latin fidere meaning ‘to trust.’

Trusting can sometimes be difficult, but it can uplift and strengthen our resolve to reach beyond ourselves and become considerate and compassionate of others.

Bradley James (not the actor) is a composer, pianist, singer, and public speaker. He met Mother Teresa in 1987 and continued their relationship through a series of letters and visits. In my book, What Do You Stand For?, Bradley offered this poignant example of compassion.

“The name of my music company, Only Little Things Music, and the subject of the first song on my CD, ‘Gift of Love, Music to the Words and Prayers of Mother Teresa’ come from something that Mother Teresa said to me frequently during the years I knew her. It is a phrase that she shared with many over the years, as if to stress its importance. Mother often said, ‘We are not called to do great things, only little things with great love.’

During Mother’s last trip to the United States, she was staying with her Sisters, The Missionaries of Charity Contemplatives in the South Bronx. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day in late spring. Mother was in the convent sick in bed, spending time with the Sisters and receiving few visitors. The doorbell rang constantly when Mother visited, but this day it was unusually quiet. I was sitting in the parlor talking with two Sisters when the doorbell rang. They asked me to answer the door, as they were on their way into the convent. At the door was a smiling young teacher and her class of eighteen or twenty kindergartners who had come to see Mother and to bring her an enormous cake.

“I called for the Sisters who came out, and they told the teacher that Mother was ill and not receiving any visitors. The teacher was very kind and understanding and handed the cake to the Sisters.

“The sweet faces of these little children in the sunny street drew several of the Sisters out of the house until here was a small crowd talking to the teacher and to each of the children. In all of the activity, I noticed one little boy, smaller than the rest, who was standing alone, looking a little sad. He was probably not the most popular kid in class, as no one seemed to notice him. I went over and started talking to him.

“His sweetness and simplicity moved me very deeply. He never smiled. He told me that they were there to bring a cake to Mother ‘Teesa’ because she was sick. He told me a few other things that were important to a little boy growing up in one of the poorest sections of New York. I asked his name and he asked me for mine.

“All little boys like to have a few coins in their pocket, so as they were gathering on the sidewalk to go back to school, I reached into my pocket and put all my pocket change into his dirty little hand. His eyes lit up as he put the coins into his pocket.

“The teacher began to line the kids up while we stood back and watched these adorable little children march back down the street. We couldn’t take our eyes off of them. Suddenly, the little guy I had been talking to broke ranks and ran back to me. He threw his arms around my leg and said, ‘Thank you, Mister. Nobody ever talks to me.’ He took out a nickel and said, ‘Give this to Mother “Teesa,” and tell her the rest is for my mom.’  Then, he ran back to join his class, smiling.

“He didn’t have a lot to give, but the little he had, he gave with great love.  By the way, his name was Angel.”

“Faith,” Saint Augustine said, “is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”



  1. I was fortunate to meet Bradley at Sacred Heart church in Lancaster, CA. I joined him and some parishioners for dinner after.

    It was the most refreshing experience I have had in years, hope to meet him again.

  2. I have a tape given to me by Bradley so very long ago. It’s dated 1997. I have from time to time heard of places he has appeared and wonder if he still is in the southern California area. (Our acquaintance started a Doug Arango’s, Palm Desert, CA. ) I’m wondering if he is well and if he is still active in his music presentations and piano concerts. (I believe he spoke at Serra High School in San Juan Capistrano a while back. I did not hear about it until after the fact)

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