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I am a novice at the ashram, and we’ve been dropped off in a village with no money and no food, with the mission to find our way for thirty days.
The weather is decent, and we’ve been given a warehouse for shelter. We leave our mats there and venture into the village. There are simple huts from which people sell food, spices, and sundries. Laundry is strung between the huts. Most people travel by bike or on foot—some of the children are barefoot.
Untethered, without a plan, the first thing we feel is fear, which provokes us to do whatever it takes to survive. We ask for handouts—people in India are generous and often give bread, fruit, or coins to people in spiritual dress. We visit the temple where pilgrims are given free food called prasad—this is sanctified food that is offered to God, then handed out. Anxious about our survival, we resort to selfishness and hoarding.
By the second week, we’re in better shape. We’ve figured out that we can earn our provisions by offering help to people in the village. We start assisting people with heavy loads or peddlers who could use a hand with their carts. We soon learn that opening our hearts and souls encourages others to do the same. The donations we receive aren’t dramatically different from the ones we got when we first arrived, but the exchange gives us a warm sense of communal compassion and generosity, and I feel like I’ve absorbed the lesson of our journey. We thought we had nothing, and indeed we barely had any material possessions. but we were still able to give people our effort.
However, by the final week, we’re well-fed and secure enough to notice something deeper. Though we had come with nothing, we still had a certain kind of wealth: we are stronger and more capable than a lot of the people in the village. There are seniors, children, and disabled people on the street, all of them in greater need than we are.
“I feel bad,” one monk says. “This is short-term for us. For them it’s forever.”
“I think we’re missing something,” I add. “We can do more in this village than survive.” We recall Helen Keller’s refrain: “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” This is, unfortunately, no exaggeration. In India, you often see people with missing limbs.
I realize that now we have found our way, we can share our food and money we have received with those who aren’t as able as we are. Just when I think I’ve learned the lesson of our journey, I come upon a revelation that affects me profoundly: Everyone, even those of us who have already dedicated our lives to service, can always give more.
Source: Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty
How many of us are still living life the way the monks lived in the first week?
There's a Chinese idiom that goes, "Giving is more joyous than receiving." No matter what our situation is, we can still give. Even if we have no material possessions to give, we can give our time, energy, and knowledge. We can also give others comfort and positivity with a smile or with our listening ears.