Sai Ashraya Youth Service
Bay Area Service
It was a treat to watch Sai Ashraya expand its operations this month. One of the young adult volunteers had a tough day at work and was visibly distressed with so many production issues at his company. After a long meeting, the vice president of the company wanted to break the tension and asked about the weekend plans. Having nothing else to say, the Sai youth informed the vice president without thinking, or analysing, or holding back, "I have a breakfast distribution for the homeless youth in Berkeley"
The moment those words came out, the Sai youth bit his tongue, thinking he shouldn't have said that. After all it’s the vice president of a company and there are other senior managers in the meeting room and the discussion was on solving some critical company issues. But as all know, the times when the mind doesn't think, God gets into action.
Whatever the Sai youth spoke about intrigued the vice president and he struck a conversation asking about homelessness in bay area. He was surprised and totally taken aback when the Sai youth started sharing all the details about the poverty problem in Bay area, the statistics to support it, the journey of a homeless youth from abuse to violence, to sexual harassment to force into addictions. A meeting that was supposed be over in one hour extended to another half hour just to discuss what Sai Ashraya is doing to end homelessness permanently.
After the "extended" meeting the Sai youth volunteer remembered Bhagawan's words during the June trip. Bhagawan had said that youth should talk about Seva to others, youth should talk about expansion and universality and about "Love all, Serve all". Bhagawan informed that one should not talk about personal spirituality or individual Sadhana or the hours one does meditation or Namasmarana (chanting) as that would be tantamount to an increase of the ego. But Bhagawan had lovingly told the youth to be open and to think and talk about Seva always, because he said that will inspire people to join hands. Otherwise no one would know that Sai Ashraya is trying to solve homelessness problems in their own community, one cannot undertake such a humongous task without local support.
It was such a miraculous way of seeing Bhagawan function through the volunteers that day, because at the end of the meeting the VP offered to cook food for the homeless youth and he had made around 60+ bowls of vegetarian lentil soup that was served in the Berkeley youth shelter and on the streets. The VP also recommended that the Sai Ashraya team take two of his young sons to be active participants for such events in the future. Isn't this what expansion is about?
As part of Sai Ashraya activities, the volunteers of Bay Area have been scouting the youth shelters periodically to check how to help the youth move out of homelessness permanently. Sai Ashraya team volunteers made new homeless youth friends who are looking for jobs and exchanged contact and promised to work hard and identify training and job placement resources so the youth can be moved out of homelessness soon.
There were wonderful lessons learned. For example: Did anyone knows that the homeless youth do carry mobile phones, but always switched off. The Sai youth volunteer as he was explaining about Sai Ashraya, saw almost every single youth switch on the mobile phone and every single one of their phones were shut down till then. Upon asking them the volunteer was in for a rude shock. The homeless once they get out of the shelter cannot charge their phones and they all have a second-hand or very old mobile phone that does not hold charge. It is for this reason that none of the homeless youth are reachable in their cell phones because until they find a power source they do not switch on their phone. Sai volunteers had texted one of the homeless youth about a job training programme and the youth neither answered the phone nor replied to the texts. Later on when the youth switched on the phone in the night he had replied to the volunteer saying their phones are usually switched off. By sending the volunteers to the streets, Bhagawan was teaching a very beautiful lesson to the Sai youth. As the team learns about such hardships, more empathy flows, more love flows towards the fellow homeless friends. It is becoming more evident in the hearts of the devotees that youth are not serving anyone external, youth are only serving themselves, the love and purity that flows within is the reward.
All the Seva activities are also being recorded in OneWorldOneSai.com as Bhagawan had instructed that this website would become global and unite the entire world in Seva. Youth are making sure everything is tracked so more people in the neighbourhood can get inspired and become aware of the activities happening in the neighbourhood. Every week several youth call in from the bay area and from United States in general asking about opportunities to serve and youth are directing them to OneWorldOneSai.com website. Very soon youth will have thousands of projects being created so people can stay connected to this wonderful mission of spreading love and service globally.
More than 60 jackets and more than 60 T-shirts were distributed along with Christmas gift packets containing candies, nutritional bars and other goodies. More than 50 health care kits were distributed on the streets of Oakland on December 17, 2017. The homeless people celebrated Christmas a week early with the team with chocolate cakes and bananas.
Youngest Volunteer - six year old adding smiley
Since the team had just distributed blankets, socks and jackets the previous month, they did not carry that this time. But looking at the ever increasing need, the team resolved to do a more rigorous Seva for Christmas and New Year and also look for more homeless locations, so Seva can be done for far more people. As Bhagawan often says "With effort comes grace", but the volunteers realised that when grace comes, it does not come just for the person doing Seva, but for all the volunteers, for all the people whom youth serve, for all the people who watch and all the surrounding worlds. Such is the grace and gift of Bhagawan.