Through, Not Do

He truly seemed happy and blissful. His warm, calm smile morphed into “Thank you.” For that one moment, our hearts connected. My eyes shadowed his eyes; my lips shadowed his lips. I wasn’t sure how to respond, but I really didn’t need to. After handing over the Seva Café envelope to him, he responded, “It was so great that I’m going to come tomorrow.” There’s no denying it, the food was really great, accounted for the fact that I cleared multiple dishes from his table. Every single one of those dishes were completely clean. The only thing that remained, if at all, was the small residue of the brown sambhar, the pale, almost vomit-like green outer shells of consumed drumsticks and the ketchup-drawn “Love” in cursive on his steel plate. That forgets to mention that he was the only one on his table — a slim, middle-aged man with a receding hairline and a few splotches of grey here and there. I went over to Bhaskarbhai and told him the good news. Or so I thought.

I was extremely happy to hear about someone wanting to come back because of their experience. After all, that is what I thought the point of serving a customer was — to support them in enjoying their experience so that they would return for more. However, I was told that the whole point of Seva Café is not to have customers coming in repeatedly day after day, and that they have experienced customers who have done this before. In that moment, I felt all of happiness, guilt and frustration. I felt happy that he enjoyed it enough to want to come back, guilty that I had somehow played a part in this situation, and frustrated that I didn’t know why. I was feeling somewhat disturbed by what had happened. I realized that I hadn’t fully understood the true purpose of Seva café. This made me really think about Seva Café’s purpose. What is it really? Rather than Seva café just being an only volunteer system that successfully runs on love and kindness, it’s about all the facets of its experience being in harmony. The components of Seva café that day — the volunteers that have been contributing for a long time, the Niswarth students and the customers — we are all part of the Seva. I hadn’t served that gentleman, or anyone else for that matter. All I was was an instrument of service, deriving from the beautiful energy of love, compassion and joy at Seva café.

After reflection, I realized why I had been told what I had been told. Seva café is an ecosystem of Seva, and everyone has their own part to play. It takes a village, not just some volunteers to do Seva.