Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"The Theresa Effect"

The desk columnist of the Catholic Times refers to a recent discussion on the Internet on what being a member of the middle class means for the French and for Koreans. For a Korean, a middle class life means having no debt, living in an apartment with more than 1000 square feet, a monthly salary of over $4,466, a car with an engine of over 2000 cc, money in the bank, and the leisure to go overseas once a year. For the French, it means having the ability to speak one foreign language, to participate in at least one sport, play a musical  instrument, be able to prepare a special dish for guests, respond with righteous indignation at seeing evil in society and work to change it, and to offer freely your services to others.

The columnist points out that for a Korean what is important is financial success, while for the French, it is quality of life, the writer being especially attracted to their desire to be of  service to  others.

Some years ago, on a visit to Lourdes, she remembers meeting a doctor who was staying with his wife and child at the same hotel where she was staying. They had come from Paris to the pilgrimage shrine for two weeks on vacation, and were there to volunteer their services to the hospital.

Recently we have seen, she says, an increase of individuals and of industry taking an interest in volunteer service.  The office of statistics has published the results from their survey, which sees an increase from 14.3 percent in 2006 to19.8 percent in 2012. The columnist, however, doesn't see this all positively; she feels that some of the increase comes from those who are trying to improve their marketability in the work force and to get points for college.

There may be a lack of the proper attitude on the part of  some who are looking only for the  quantity of hours of service. The formation of a consensus of what volunteering should mean is still a work in process, she says.

In 1998, a professor at Harvard University talked about the "Theresa Effect." A  group was shown a movie about the life of Mother Theresa and, after the viewing, were checked to  determine the change in their immunity antibody count.

Usually when a person is under stress or has worries, the antibody count goes down, but for those that saw the film, the index increased. This was not because of any work of service that was actually done, as you would expect, but only because they watched a film of one whose life was dedicated to service. After this study, changes in the mental, bodily and societal effects resulting from service to others has been called the "Theresa Effect."

For a Christian, service to others comes from our Lord's saying (Matt 22:39): " You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The columnist hopes this desire to help will increase and that the "Theresa Effect" will become second nature in our society.

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