Delivering love door to door
Sai Region 10, which encompasses the four states of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas, has been providing food and essential supplies to low-income families residing in the East Texas area, since the global economic turmoil in 2009. The positive impact of these services was felt by the local community, after a record-breaking drought hit the area in 2011. Although the food drives have been ongoing in the East Texas area since 2009, the recent crisis of wide-spread drought and severe poverty reinforced the Sai volunteers’ resolve to replenish food pantries and provide needy families with food and grocery supplies on a quarterly basis.
Spreading the message of love
On April 27th, 2013, the Sai Centers of Austin and Houston participated in a service in which food, essential supplies, and toys were distributed among 81 families in Jasper, Newton, Buna, and Polk counties of East Texas. This service is similar to the Grama Seva1(Village Service) projects that Sathya Sai Baba initiated in 2000 for the students of the Sathya Sai Institue of Education, who are deployed in convoys of trucks to the most remote rural villages and hamlets in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India, to distribute food and clothing to nearly 250,000 villagers. A primary goal of Grama Service was to provide the students an intense exposure that they would otherwise never get, and in the process become highly sensitized to the pain constantly suffered and endured by poor villagers. This experience would leave a deep imprint on the students’ heart forever and one day, when they occupy positions of authority with leverage, it would induce them to do something to change the face of rural India.Similar projects have been undertaken by the Sai organization globally.
Toys for tots
About 40 volunteers from the Austin and Houston Sai Centers reached The Food Ministry of Roganville2 by 8:45 am, and packed items such as vegetarian canned foods, dry milk, rice, sugar, and so on for each family. Lists of recipients were provided in advance by the local community leaders, which were used to determine the needs of each family based on its size. We were divided into groups to deliver the supplies. Many community representatives served as guides. All the guides were extremely patient, gracious, and helpful. They introduced the volunteers to the recipient families and mentioned that “their teacher (referring to Sai Baba), is the embodiment of love. They hail from various parts of the world and are here to help us.” Guides from the local community spent the entire day helping the volunteers, compelling us to ask a question, “Are we here to help, or to be helped?” Yes, we were there to offer our services, but we received more than we gave. Their dedication and resolve reminded us of Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s words on helping others:
“Do not believe that you can by means of service reform or reshape the world. You may or may not; that does not matter. The real value of service, its most visible result, is that it reforms you. You are not doing service for others. You are doing it always for yourselves, to the God in you, the God who is equally present in others.”
One of the recipients, a middle-aged gentleman, informed the volunteers that he recently lost his job and had no money to buy food or pay bills. He confessed that he was just wondering how he would get by for the next week. Upon receiving the food and essential supplies, he told us that we were indeed God sent. Hearing this made us feel the love and we were grateful to be able to participate in this service.
SSE (Sai Spiritual Education) students & YAs (Young Adults) also participated in this service activity. During a visit to a home, when a SSE student gave a toy to a 5 year old girl, she introduced herself as Lizzy. She said, “Hi, I am Lizzy, and I am 5 years old.” She held the arm of the SSE student and took him to her farm and showed him her pony, her dog, and a few other animals. She also taught him how to climb on a tree-house in her backyard. When volunteers were about to leave her house, she had tears in her eyes, offered a wildflower to the SSE student, and told him, “Don’t ever forget me.” The SSE student was really touched and resolved to return for the next time the service took place. Pure and unsullied love was experienced by all the volunteers through this little girl, whom they had come to serve, but who actually served them instead!
We, who interacted with local representatives and residents experienced transcendental love while performing these services. After seeing the plight of food service recipients, we counted our blessings and at the same time, realized the importance of exercising ceiling on desires and not wasting money or natural resources. After the service, the leader of the group, suggested that we collect dry food items in the centers and distribute them quarterly to the needy and the poor; an idea that was well received by all of us. Having an opportunity to help others is indeed a privilege.
- Grama Seva: “Grama” means Village and Seva means “Service”. Grama Seva is an annual service project started in 2000 and carried out by the students of Sathya Sai Educational Institutes. For additional information about Grama Seva and a video clip on Grama Seva, please see: http://www.saicast.org/2011/gramaSeva.html
- The Food Ministry in Roganville, Texas is a charitable organization. It distributes food to the needy on a one time per month basis.https://www.hotras.com/sys/profile.taf?profiletype=program&textonly=&recordid=573915