Service is the coming together of people. Cooperation among people in a society, motivated by spontaneity and by pure intentions, is the hallmark of service. ~ Sri Sathya Sai Baba, SSSS 15 (31), November 19, 1981.

The Sri Sathya Sai Group of Orlando, FL, currently with ten active members and in the face of limited resources and constraints, persevered to find innovative ways to carry out service projects, including a service offering to celebrate the Birthday of their spiritual leader Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

What started as an inspired idea by a Center member soon escalated into the synergy of a unified effort by a team of committed citizens. A Sai Group member, Menaka, suggested a Thanksgiving food drive, one that would be a joint community effort of the Sai group with two family-owned home building businesses that she worked for. With great enthusiasm, the owners of the business, the Rey brothers, agreed to sponsor the food drive, and thus, became lead partners of the project. They gave credit to their parents for instilling in them the value of helping others and giving back to the community. The extended Rey family, along with the employees, joined the Sai Center members, in what could become a model of a joint service project that reinforced Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s message Expansion is my Life, by expanding the spirit of service across the community.

A wave of service, if it sweeps over the land catching everyone in its enthusiasm, will be able to wipe off the mounds of hatred, malice and greed that infest the world. ~ Sri Sathya Sai Baba, SSSS 9 (18), September 10, 1969.

And the spirit of service was truly infectious. Eager to do his part for the drive, one of the Rey brothers created a festive and professional-looking Thanksgiving flier requesting the donation of canned & boxed food items that are typical of an American Thanksgiving meal. People were requested to drop off their donations at the home building business office.

The flier was distributed to various businesses in the Winter Park area. Winter Park is an affluent city known for upscale shopping districts and elegant restaurants. The fliers were posted in the their window fronts or bulletin boards. Some of the businesses happily agreed to help in the food drive including a hair salon, a clothing store, a jewelry store, ice-cream shop, a restaurant, a coffee shop & the local Starbucks. With the fliers spread all over the neighborhood, the food drive was coming alive! This was due in no small part to the strong spirit of compassion and generous attitude of the owners of the businesses, which was perfectly aligned the teachings of love and service propounded by Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

Some of the businesses, who displayed the fliers, also donated food items. A few residential neighbors also participated in the food drive. Items collected included green beans, corn, rice, pasta, cereals, yams, peanut butter, stuffing, onion rings and numerous other types of food. These items were all brought to the office where a display-window was created a few days before Thanksgiving.

The extended families of the Reys and office staff also contributed food items and excitedly participated in the display of the food items. Some donated to an office fund used to purchase more food items from local grocery stores. A few of the work colleagues assisted greatly in sorting the items and loading the food into the truck of one of the Rey brothers, who personally took it upon himself to deliver the food. Sri Sathya Sai group members, joyous to see the food drive take off with an energy of its own, brought their donation of  food items to the Center where they were blessed with chants and prayers, and then delivered to the selected agencies. 

An incredible total of 500 lbs. of food was collected altogether! Delivery became an important consideration, with the target date for delivery of the food set a few days before the Thanksgiving holidays. About 300 lbs. of food was delivered to the Coalition for the Homeless on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. About 100 lbs. of food were delivered to the Jewish Family Services of Orlando, and another 100 lbs. were taken to the Islamic Circle of North America. These agencies were selected because they served all persons in need regardless of their faiths.

This project shows how an idea from a pure heart, offered as a gift to God, expands into something greater and takes on a divine life of its own. It culminates into a unified effort, inspiring many others to join in and help. Often, the motivation of those who participate comes from gratitude within their own hearts for the blessings in their own life, as well as the incredible joy of giving and serving those less fortunate. This could become a beautiful model of a joint community effort that smaller Sai groups with limited resources could engage in, encouraging the larger community to embrace Sai’s message of loving service. Moreover, through such unified joint community efforts, small groups of dedicated Sai devotees are able to accomplish much more than they could on their own.

This was an inspiring example of how to bring to fruition Sai’s message:

What a single individual cannot accomplish, a well-knit group or society can achieve. A person walking alone will feel tired and miserable at the end of five miles but walking with ten others as a group he or she will find the five miles a jaunt. That person arrives refreshed and strong… Through the sense of unity, the willingness to sacrifice and the softness of compassion all objects can be gained ~ Sri Sathya Sai Baba, SSSS 15 (31), November 19, 1981