Prepared To Serve: SERVE

serve

The highest expression of humanity is the spirit of serving others.

“Serve” is the third chapter of our “Prepared to Serve” Campaign. When we work to serve one another, we have a positive, powerful and lasting effect on each other, our communities and the world.

That’s why The Pollination Project is working to build a solid, financial base that will be available to grassroots volunteer community leaders instantly in a time of crisis.

You can join us in support of grassroots volunteer community leaders by giving to the Prepared to Serve Resilience and Recovery Campaign. 100% of your gift goes directly to the community leaders and the communities they serve. Donate here  or visit https://thepollinationproject.org

Greatness and Perfection

AJ Dahiya - Greatness and Perfection

“You are not ready for independence. If we were to grant it, you would make so many mistakes.”

This is the response Mahatma Gandhi received from the ruling British as he petitioned and advocated for the freedom of India. 

With deep thought and gravity, Gandhi responded,

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”

Mahatma Gandhi is a name synonymous with the peaceful, nonviolent fight for justice and freedom. A fight that is waged with love, compassion, and kindness – the values of heartivism. 

To many he was a larger-than-life figure, a saint, and the champion of India’s freedom. Mahatma, the honorific title, itself means ‘great soul.’

However, as great as one can be, no one is free from critics and shortcomings – to err is human after all. 

During his lifetime and long after his death, Gandhi has been mired in controversy. In fact, that has been the case from the beginning of his life of activism in South Africa.

Gandhi has been called a misogynist and a racist. He was accused of collaborating and siding with the foreign-ruling British and he was blamed for the partition of India. Hindus felt that he favored the Muslims; the Muslims along with others called him a Hindu nationalist. 

With all that said, how is he Mahatma – a great soul? 

There’s a more important question that we should ask – to be great, do you have to be perfect?

If Gandhi really was a saint who fell from the heavens, pure in every word, action and deed, a person who made no mistakes and had no shortcomings, I would not find him to be as compelling of a figure. 

In my estimation, real greatness is found when we are imperfect and flawed. Despite the lower aspects of ourselves, the greatness is in the striving; the continual work we do on ourselves to learn, grow and be better. 

Gandhi serves as an inspiration to me precisely because he wasn’t perfect. He was human and it was this humanness that made him not just relatable, but also remarkable. 

If the price to pay for goodness was perfection the world would be a lost cause. Who among us is perfect? Who is clean and unmarked in the journey of life? 

The greatest legacy of the Mahatma is simple and often overlooked – despite our messiness, there is a Mahatma, a great soul, in all of us. 

Our job is to uncover it not by being perfect, but by being great even though we are imperfect. 

My Friend, Death

My Friend, Death - AJ Dahiya

Amidst this extended season of loss and grief, my family experienced another last night. My wife’s beloved cousin left this world from cancer, leaving behind young children and a family that will deeply miss him. These moments in life, when the loss of a loved one causes us to confront our own mortality, are a wake up call. A call we, often, choose not to answer. 

Each of us will die. This is an indisputable truth. We carry the spectre of death with us everywhere we go, like a constant companion we simultaneously fear and willfully ignore. 

What if we stop turning away? What if we turned toward it, looked death directly in the eyes and embraced it, holding it close like an old and wise friend?

Many faith traditions include the idea of keeping death as an advisor. 

When death is there with us, it is actually an opportunity to be more fully alive. Weighed against the brevity and preciousness of life, how small our troubles begin to seem; how much more slow to take or cause offense we might find ourselves. 

Perhaps our friend, death, is the original heartivist. There are few problems we might take to him that he would not advise us to approach with generosity, love, and kindness. He is unimpressed with wealth, fame, or status; as the great equalizer, death cares not for these things at all. 

Under the tutelage of death, we can lighten up and take ourselves less seriously. We can give more fully, knowing service is our only real legacy. Nothing else was ever truly ours anyway. 

Never Waste A Good Crisis

The New York winter was beginning and I had just made a decision that was going to change life as I knew it. After a deep and prolonged time of contemplation, I came to a realisation — I had grown as much as I was going to grow as a monk. The time had come to hang up the robes in search of the next chapter.

I was just about to turn 28. I didn’t have a bank account. No drivers licence. Thousands of miles from home. A handful of friends. A thin support system. No education.

I felt unstable, unsure and untethered. Could I start a career with my background? Where would I live? How would I pay rent? Who would take me seriously — I only had one outfit that wasn’t the saffron garb of a monk. I turned to a mentor who I respected deeply and revealed my heart. I expressed the deep inner turmoil and turbulence I was feeling.

“Never waste a good crisis,” he said with deep gravity.

He further shared that I had a few choices. I could wallow in my insecurity and feelings of hopelessness, or I could use this as an opportunity to propel my life forward.

Even then I felt the ancient truth in this wisdom, echoed through the ages through sages like Marcus Aurelius, who said “The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Now, I am fortunate to serve the global Pollination Project community; a devoted group full of changemakers for whom seemingly intractable obstacles became the catalysts for action.

I think of Poli Sotomayor, this week’s changemaker of the week, for whom the suffering of non-human animals tugged at her heart so strongly that it became a lifelong path, leading her to give up everything she knew to devote her life to helping others broaden their circle of concern.

I think of George Reginald Freeman, persecuted for his sexuality and driven from his home country to a foreign land, where he began work to make sure other refugees were supported in a way he was not.

I think of the nearly 400+ changemakers we were able to support last year through COVID-relief funding, for whom even a global pandemic was an opportunity to grow in community and service.

There are powerful individuals from all walks of life, in all corners of the world who are victimized but don’t allow themselves to be victims, who are overpowered, yet do not yield their power to anyone, who fight the hate they experience with love.

The world is full of waste — wasted time, wasted resources, wasted life.

Next time you face a crisis, make sure you don’t waste it.

Activism Takes Both Hands

Activism Takes Both Hands - AJ Dahiya

Growing up in a working class town to immigrant parents, I found myself in the same kinds of mischief common to young boys the world over. And like many children, I was adept at justifying my actions whenever I was caught. Particularly in cases where I felt I was the victim, I rivaled a defense attorney in my protestations of innocence.

No matter what the situation or circumstances, my mother would respond with a phrase that has been etched in my consciousness,

“It takes two hands to clap.”

It sounds much more poetic in her native language, but I think the English captures the sentiment (although I can clap with one hand…sorry Mum!).

This phrase was not heartless. It did not invalidate my experience or ignore my feelings. It pointed out that all of those things were but one hand. The other hand was mine — my reaction, my thought patterns and behaviours.

With this small sentence my mother taught me a valuable lesson. In every situation I am also a factor. What I didn’t know then is that my mother was a heartivist. In her own simple way she was illustrating that while pointing the finger out at the world and those within it, there was also a necessity in pointing inward.

There is no meaningful activism, no lasting social change that can be accomplished without self-reflection. So often, we harbor within ourselves the very things we dislike and want to change in others. To anyone who wants to improve the world, I say: start with yourself. It is only from this vantage point that you will be able to truly serve, and inspire others to do the same.

If ever more of us commit to self and collective evolution, perhaps one day soon the two hands will clap to applaud a world we are proud of.