Finding Order in Chaos

Two weekends ago six of us completed our 5th Gratitude & Giving Back activity.

It also happened to be the day our car was frontally hit by a large wooden plank driving down the freeway at the speed of 80 mph. Things could have ended really badly, forever altering the maps of our faces but I like to believe that someone is watching out for us and knew we were on our way to express Gratitude and Give Back. The plank damaged the entire front bumper, grills, fender, and other parts of the car leaving my Mom, my sister and me unscratched.

An incident like this would usually leave me very frazzled and cursing myself for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, today I chose to see the silver lining and thanked the power that is watching out for me for saving us from what could have been a much bigger tragedy. Sometimes, it only takes one right thought to find order within chaos.

But I digress…

We were on our way to the Gurdwara in San Jose to help with Sunday lunch Langar preparations. A Langar is a common kitchen run by the Sikh community to prepare and serve food to all visitors of the Gurdwara, without distinction of faith, religion or background, for free. On an average Sunday the San Jose Gurdwara serves lunch to 5,000 people and then some for dinner. The entire operation of the kitchen is run by volunteers making one think that it would be a hotbed for chaos. To the contrary – it’s the most beautiful and comforting example of order taking birth out of chaos.

Starting at 5am in the morning volunteers – many from the Sikh community but also general volunteers that just want to help – start showing up and without receiving a single direction make themselves useful in the kitchen wherever help is needed. No one tells you to roll out rotis, or peel onions, or cut vegetables, or wash and dry dishes. You just seamlessly plug into an activity where a helping hand is needed. We saw elderly people well in their 80s making rotis all the way to 10 year olds running between the dish washing and serving stations to take back washed plates.

It is nothing short of magical to be sitting in a circle and peeling onions with a group of total strangers, shedding tears, yet smiling because everyone is here not for themselves but to orchestrate something much bigger than an individual can ever fathom.

Right around noon an orderly line of colorfully clad worshippers entered the immaculately clean Langar hall, took a plate and walked past the food line to get served. Without many words being spoken there was a blanket of respect spanning the entire Langar hall. People only took as much as they could consume, they bowed in respect to the elders who served them and then took a seat on the long rows of carpets laid out for the diners.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures from the clockwork occurring inside the kitchen because, as intended, my hands were busy doing what I came to do but we took a picture outside of our group (minus one).

With the bottom of my heart, I thank all these lovely volunteers for joining me for yet another activity and expressing their Gratitude for all that we have. A special thanks to my Mom who had come all the way from Germany and after cooking delicacies for us every single day at home insisted on spending time with us at the Langar kitchen too!

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