Reigniting the Bowery Food Service: New York City, NY
In 1976, a few devotees of Sri Sathya Sai Baba began distributing sandwiches to the hungry around Manhattan. It eventually evolved into the weekly Bowery food service that spanned over 40 years and served 150-200 people weekly. The food service continued uninterrupted until 2020, but sadly came to a halt, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, the park across the street from the original site of the service (Sara D. Roosevelt Park), is a gathering place for many young people and a site where many homeless people congregate. It was, and continues to be, the perfect place for the weekly feeding service by members of the Sri Sathya Sai Center of Metropolitan along with Sai volunteers from other New York City Sai Centers.
After a 2-year hiatus, the service restarted in August, through what can only be described as divine inspiration. A Metropolitan Sai Center officer prayed to Sri Sathya Sai Baba to re-ignite the fire of devotion in her heart after feeling that the online devotional sessions were no longer serving to inspire her to “Love All, Serve All.”
As a result, Sai Center members agreed to pause their online meetings in August and organize in-person devotional meetings and service activities outdoors in Mother Nature. For the first 3 weeks of August, a small group agreed to clean up a popular local park by picking up trash. During this experience, they also met individuals facing food insecurity.
For the last Saturday of this month-long program, the Sai Center members decided to put together brown bag lunches with sandwiches, fruits, granola bars, juice and water to distribute to those in need of food at the park. The group, consisting of 8-12 adults, put together 40 bags that were distributed on Saturday mornings. For the Sai volunteers, bringing back the Bowery service, after a 2-year pause, felt like a divine directive as it unfolded naturally with ease.
Since then, the food service has grown, and Sai volunteers in New York City come together to distribute lunch bags to 50-60 people each week. “We feel blessed to have this uplifting experience that truly transforms the heart of every one of us. We have immense gratitude for this opportunity,” noted a Center Service Coordinator. The renewed commitment to the weekly food service has imbued many with a new fire of devotion towards Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
They are newly inspired by the basic tenets of Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings which state: “Service to man will help your divinity to blossom, for it will gladden your heart and make you feel that life has been worthwhile. Service to man is service to God, for He is in every man, and every living being, in every stone and stump.” ~ Sri Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 4 Ch. 43, December 5, 1964