On September 6, 2017, the Virgin Islands were pummeled by Hurricane Irma, and a week later by Hurricane Maria, both Category 5 storms. The extensive devastation left the beautiful island without power and vital basic facilities, including a functioning hospital and airport. Many residents were in a heightened state of trauma and despair and experienced intense emotions ranging from anger to grief to fear and hopelessness. Sai Center members also suffered much damage, some losing their homes entirely.
The disaster, however, brought many closer together, so that diverse neighbors, formerly strangers, found themselves sharing their meals together and bonding over their shared trials and tribulations.
In the aftermath of the hurricanes, many organizations facilitated relief efforts. The local St. Thomas Sai Center, with 35 members, sprung into action, with the unshakeable faith that they were called to put into action Sathya Sai Baba’s message of love and service. Members served selflessly, despite seemingly insurmountable tasks
The Southeast Region SSIO generously donated supplies desperately needed by the hurricane survivors and worked closely with United Way on distribution logistics. Sai Center members spent hours sorting and distributing donations and supplies throughout the island and became known by the locals as the “Love All, Serve All Group.”
A Sai Center member said that, “Through the ordeal, we learned invaluable life lessons such as the importance of working together in cooperation and unity and seeing the Divine Hand in all things. We also learned how important and healing it is to celebrate life. For instance, we witnessed how music and a DJ brought in by United Way seemed to dissolve the frustrations of the crowd, transforming the atmosphere to one in which all were singing and dancing together. Joy was not only felt by the recipients, but by those who served. That joy could be felt amidst calamity, was perhaps the most surprising lesson.”
Asked how the catastrophe served to change her, another Sai member replied, “I would say I learned the value of acceptance; surrendering instead of getting stressed; accepting that everything comes from God. I also learned about resilience and the ability to bounce back. We’d never been through anything like this, but now I know that we can withstand and survive. But the biggest transformation was learning that even though we are doing the service – we are not the Doer. Ego does come in, so we have to remind ourselves, “It’s not me doing the service. It’s God’s Grace. He is the doer.”
The President of the St. Thomas Sai Center, Simran Sakhrani, shared, “We are blessed to have learned that in every experience we go through, there is mercy. We are humbled to be given the opportunity to help our brothers and sisters. Calamities can either make you or break you. Through Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings and these service projects, we were able to see the divinity in all and realize that through love and service, we are all one. It is sad that it takes an event such as a hurricane to make us realize our innate nature, but it is incredible to acknowledge the strength given to us by the Divine to be pillars for those around us. We were blessed with grace, wisdom, and selflessness so that we never, ever forget we are here to serve mankind with nothing but love, love, and more love.”