USA National Pilgrimage to Prasanthi Nilayam, 2017: Rural Village Service
As part of the USA pilgrimage 2017, I had the blessed opportunity to participate in the Rural Village Service (Grama Seva) in July 2017. On the day of the Rural Village Service, we boarded the waiting buses and left as a convoy, travelling into remote villages a couple hours away from Puttaparthi. As we arrived closer to our destination, the convoy split and each bus went to a different neighboring village to serve.
As we got off the bus, we were greeted joyously by several villagers who had gathered to receive us with full fanfare and music. A huge banner with Sai Baba’s picture welcomed us. The villagers surrounded us and led us in a procession to the village temple to pay obeisance to the deity. We then split into teams to serve different areas of the village. The Sai Volunteers from Parthi who had accompanied us, guided us as to what had to be done at each home we visited- Indian clothing (saree and dhothi), packets of tamarind rice and sweet desserts (laddoo) were handed to the family of the house.
I was initially caught up in the logistics of carrying out the entire operation. Once those details were ironed out, I was able to be in the present and observe with a keen eye all that was around me. As we meandered through the streets distributing the packages, I noticed that the streets and house fronts looked very clean and the front of the homes had the most elaborate rangoli (beautiful intricate designs created on the floor with colored rice flour). Upon enquiry, we found out that the villagers had been preparing for our visit over the past several days: they had gone to great lengths to clean and decorate their homes to receive us. When we arrived at each house in the village, the families welcomed us with warm smiles and invited us in. Some offered water, some offered flowers, but nevertheless all of them offered us smiles and love. Their lives seemed simple and unaffected by technology and other happenings of the world. Pure love radiated from their hearts.
Even to this day, when I look back, I am always humbled by how the villagers made me feel that day and I am moved to tears of gratitude. Though they themselves did not have much in terms of material things, the pure simple love they showered on us was very moving and touching. Although we had gone to serve them, it seemed we were the true recipients in the end, with all the love, honor and gracious hospitality that they showered upon us.
When you offer milk to a hungry child or a blanket to a shivering brother or sister on the pavement, you are but placing a gift of God into the hands of another gift of God. You are reposing the gift of God in a repository of the Divine Principle. God serves. He allows you to claim that you have served. Without His will, not a single blade of grass can quiver in the breeze. Fill every moment with gratitude to the Giver and the Recipient of all gifts.
Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 9 Ch. 10, May 19, 1969