What Were You Thinking?

By Tim Elmore


In 1994, Mother Teresa gave a speech where she recounted the story of four people on the street in Calcutta. She asked the sisters who were with her to take care of three of them, telling them she would tend to the fourth;  the one who seemed closest to dying. 


As Mother Teresa did everything she could to comfort, feed, and help the woman feel comfortable in a bed, the woman had a beautiful smile on her face. She took Teresa’s hand as she uttered two words: “Thank you.” Then she died with a smile on her face. 


Mother Teresa, reflecting on the moment, shared with her audience a personal revelation, “I could not help but examine my own conscience in that moment. What would I say if I were in her place? My answer was simple. I would have tried to draw a little attention to myself. I would have said, ‘I am hungry, I am dying, I am in pain’ or something like that. But she gave me much more; she gave me her gratitude and died with a smile on her face.”


We’ve all uttered the phrase to someone when they do something unexplainable: “What were you thinking?” We say it to our kids, spouses, or colleagues in their irrational moments.  The question is quite paramount. What we are thinking explains our words and actions. In Mother Teresa’s story, the dying woman was focused on the kindness she’d just received from a stranger, instead of the condition she was in.


May I ask you: In this moment, what are you thinking?


What I Am Thinking

The Thanksgiving holiday is upon us. It’s the time of the year when we most consciously reflect on the things and people from whom we’ve benefited. Sadly, Thanksgiving is only a season for most people. The next time you find yourself feeling resentful, entitled, or perturbed, ask: What was I thinking? You clearly were focused on some inequity or inconvenience in your life, not the bigger picture. 


If You Think, You’ll Thank. 


Usually, when I ponder the word “thankful,” I am oriented toward the past. I am grateful for someone or something that’s entered my life in the past. Today, I am oriented in my thanksgiving toward the future; and toward you. I am thankful to you who serve the next generation. Your focus on preparing the next generation to lead the way one day is a forward-thinking orientation. One focused on the future of our world:


  • The young team members who will one day lead.
  • The young students who will one day teach.
  • Even your own children, who will one day care for others.


Thanks for what you do now to prepare our young for the future.



What Were You Thinking?