So much love
Tonight, the moon is the biggest it has been in eighty years. I try to take it all in. I feel desperate as I look up at the sky, trying to soak everything in as fast as I possible can. I don’t want to miss anything. The trip flies by, a lesson I learned last year. It worries me to think that a week has already passed. I spent so much of this year thinking about returning to India and planning for it. I frantically review the last few days, the trip to Manav Sadhna, the village, ESI, Suresh. But the more I try to remember it the more everything blurs. The only thing still tonight is the moon. It sits high above me, a big glowing ball shining brightly in the sky, casting a pale light on the ground. I sit together with the Niswarth group in a circle under the stars. It has been a quiet night, literally. We had what is known as a silent dinner. We all sit cross legged on mats on the floor. It is completely dark outside and the only light in the room comes from candles. The ESI staff has decorated for the occasion by writing with chalk on the ground and by displaying paper birds with words like “Truth” and “Hope”. After we ate we cleared the dishes. When I walked outside to wash them in the sink I saw that members of the staff had arranged our shoes in the shape of a heart and used beans to create eyes and a smile, making one large heart shape face. I was touched. After we were done we stayed back to serve the next group of people, school teachers on retreat. Serving meant setting out plates, cups, and spoons. It meant squatting down to their eye level with bowls of food to offer them. It meant clearing their plates when they were done and washing them in the sink outdoors. After the first group of women had eaten, the second group came in and the process was repeated. Finally, after all the guests staying at ESI had eaten the staff who had prepared the food and who had served us sat down to eat. I try really hard to serve them well. Tonight is about gratitude. I think about the Commons workers at Andover. Everyday they make us food. Everyday they serve us. But how often do we let them know how thankful we are? At ESI I am more conscious of being responsible for myself. We wash and dry our own dishes after eating. At home and school I fall into the habit of being waited on or expecting other people to take care of me. Here, I am taken care of but it is different. The ESI workers don’t prepare my meals because it is an obligation but instead out of love for us and their work. Their love gives me an awareness of my feelings of entitlement and a desire to show gratitude. The opportunity to serve them while they eat is the best part of my day.
In Ahmedabad we learned about and worked with Manav Sadhna, an NGO, serving thousands of people in India and their sister organizations, Gramstree, Seva Cafe, and ESI. They are based on a simple idea. That if they do everything with love, they can never go wrong. Manav Sadhna’s love is something I don’t experience on a daily basis. I love my mom, my family, and my friends but the my everyday actions are not a reflection of that. Mostly, they are going through the motions, the endless list of things I need to accomplish, or blocks I need to check. When I am at school this type of selfless love feels especially rare as I try to bargain with the girls in my dorm to clean the common room, or complain about how tired I am or how much work I have. It makes sense. When you always have the “What’s in it for me mentality” or are always thinking about what you will get out something it is impossible to feel the love. But tonight, I feel it everywhere. I feel it when I look at the faces of the other Niswarth group members, when I look up at the moon, and even as the memories of the past week frantically rush before my eyes. I’ve learned that only in mastering this type of love can I really find peace. Peace from sweating the small stuff, from worrying about not having enough time, and peace enough to live in the moment. I don’t know much, I have spent a large part of the trip feeling confused and overwhelmed. But it does seem that if I place my trust in love I will be okay. As I sit, basked in light radiating from the largest moon in my lifetime, overflowing with food and good feelings I am sure of one thing in this moment. There is so much love.