A few decades ago, a well-respected professor of strategy at a business school in Spain wrote a line inspired by Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman on the board of the classroom: “The only purpose of a company is to maximize shareholder profit.”
A young student named Carlos was outraged. He raised his hand. “Do you really think I am going to dedicate my professional life solely to make money for shareholders?” he asked the professor.
“You must be a communist!” the professor shouted.
“I’m not a communist,” Carlos said. “But I think I have made the wrong career choice.”
Carlos Rey, the student in the strategy professor’s class, felt as if he’d just spent the past four years of his life studying something that had nothing to do with his true desires. Disillusioned, he strapped on a backpack and headed to India in search of answers.
When he got there, he embedded himself in a Tibetan refugee camp and began meditating with the Buddhist monks.
He met a journalist there from National Geographic who recommended that he visit the Hindu temple of Kalighat, in the city of Calcutta. The temple was dedicated to Kali, the goddess of death.
“If you want to understand the meaning of his life,” the journalist told him, “you must first face the meaning of death.”
After a two-day train ride, Carlos arrived in Calcutta. He discovered that the temple of Kalighat had been donated to the Missionaries of Charity—the religious order founded by Mother Theresa—and converted into a house for the homeless and terminally ill.
The temple dedicated to the goddess of death was now a hospital for the dying.
Carlos stopped into the house of the Missionaries of Charity early in the morning and found his way to the chapel. Next to him was an old woman who looked to be in her mid to late nineties silently meditating in a small room. He took a seat beside her. She looked vaguely familiar, but he wasn’t sure why. When she turned to face him, he saw her face for the first time: it was Mother Theresa.
After she was done meditating, she motioned to the young man to follow her out onto the patio. She asked Carlos what he wanted.
“Mother, I want to go to Kalighat,” he told her.
She looked at him solemnly. “You can go to Kalighat,” she said. “But every morning before leaving, you must come here and do an hour of meditation.”
He showed up at six o’clock the next morning for an hour of mediation with Mother Theresa and her sisters, and then went on his way to Kalighat.
When he got there, the sisters who ran the hospital asked him to care for an infirmed Hindu man. “You will be his family, his father, his mother, his brother,” they told him.
Carlos slowly adjusted to the stench that filled the room. He gave himself as completely as he could to this man that he had been asked to care for. He cut the man’s hair and nails, bathed him, and read Hindu versus (in Spanish) to him.
Mostly, though, he just sat by his bed holding his hand.
It was only a matter of days before the man he had come to love like a brother died in his arms.
Despite experiencing moments of profound happiness as he was caring for the dying man, Carlos was once again plunged disillusionment and devastation—the same that had brought him to India in the first place.
When Carlos returned to the Mother House of the Missionaries, devastated by the loss, he found Mother Theresa once again praying by herself in the chapel. He interrupted her.