How our family got involved

A family friend had participated in a homeless feeding project in downtown Philadelphia since its beginning more than 20 years ago. He invited my father and I to join them one Saturday morning, either the second or fourth Saturday of the month, at 8.30 a.m. outside the Parkway Central Library on Vine Street. We decided we would go and observe and see how we could help with distributing sandwiches. We left home at 7.45 a.m Saturday morning and parked on the street. After a few minutes, we were surprised to see many homeless persons arriving and quietly waiting for the Sai Center members to show up. Within 20 minutes, the Sai Center members arrived and started unloading their cars filled with bags, each containing two sandwiches, a juice box or water bottle, and a piece of fruit. Fresh donuts, muffins, and hot fresh coffee were also to be handed out.

We were surprised to see how well-organized everyone was and wondered how these Sai volunteers were able to prepare so many sandwich lunches. We were told that those who could not make it to the project often prepared sandwich lunches at home and then delivered them to our friend's residence. All those who planned to attend the project usually met in front of his home on Saturday morning, organized the food items into three cars, and then took off. His son was a great asset to the service. He had established contacts with a local Dunkin Donuts store, and they provided him with leftover donuts and pastries to feed the homeless. The donuts were picked up Friday evenings, so they would be ready to serve on Saturday morning. Members would also make coffee in large thermos containers early Saturday morning for distribution. The homeless persons showed real appreciation for the hot coffee on cold mornings. It was wonderful to see the unity among the members participating in the service project. Everyone worked together, and newcomers were quickly told how they can help. The young children and young adults also seemed to enjoy contributing their time.

It was also heartwarming to see at least 100 homeless persons peacefully lining up for a sandwich, donut, and coffee. Many pleasantly said thanks, and one man lovingly called our friend his dad. Another gentleman liked to pray with the volunteers and had made woven crosses that he gave to some of them in appreciation.

Service to man is service to God, for He is in everyone and every living being and in every stone and stump.

Sathya Sai Baba, 5 Dec 1964

The effects of service on me

        This service has affected me personally in many ways. It’s hard to describe how I feel about serving in the Sai organization. Normally, as a young adult, I would not wake up at 7.00 on a Saturday morning or spend a Friday night making sandwiches. This service project has motivated me to wake up early and not be concerned with losing a few extra hours of sleep. It’s a great way to start the weekend, and I feel very uplifted when I see all the homeless persons enjoying the coffee and donuts. It’s very humbling to see them appreciate such small things. I often purchase coffee before work and never stopped to think how blessed I am to have the privilege of buying this drink for myself.

I noticed this service has also created unity in my family. My grandmother who is 83 years old helps my father and me prepare the sandwiches on Friday nights. Both my grandmother and father enjoy sitting at the dinner table making the sandwiches and chatting. Recently, my father went to India, and while he was there, my brother purchased the items to make the sandwiches, so it has become a family service project. I feel this act of service has helped bring unity, from the family all the way up to the Sai centers. It has brought two neighboring Sai centers together that often are not able to meet. I also feel service helps to diminish our ego. No one is concerned with status or position during service.

Serve any one; that service reaches the God within him; it brings on you the Grace of God.

Sathya Sai Baba, 16 Oct 1974

I am starting to understand why Sathya Sai Baba emphasizes service extensively. He says, “The spiritual discipline of selfless service is quite distinct. In selfless service, you devote all your energy and attention to the task at hand, for it is a dedicated task. You forget the body and ignore its demands. You set aside your individuality and its prestige and perquisites. You pluck your ego by its roots and cast it away. You give up your status, conceit, your name and form, and keep all thoughts pure. Whatever the task you are performing, renounce your personal individuality and share its travails and troubles, its fruits and benefits, with God.”[1]

For example, I remember driving to the service project and feeling anxious about schoolwork I had to complete. Later, when I was driving home, my anxiety about my schoolwork had disappeared. I realized how silly it was to be worried about something that actually is a divine gift, the chance to get an education.

I feel our view of life changes through selfless service. We truly forget our foolish issues and see the big picture. I feel it’s only through divine grace that we are able to serve others. It gives a blissful feeling we can’t get from any other act. I believe this feeling is God’s love for us shining through those we serve. So, instead of sleeping away our Saturday morning, why not wake up and serve our Lord, who is always ready to serve us in return. I hope this writing encourages readers to participate in service, and I pray that we all continue to receive divine love and self-transformation through service. 

Selfless service promotes mental purity, dimishes egoism, and enables one to experience, through sympathetic understanding, the unity of mankind.

Sathya Sai Baba, 21 Nov 1986


[1] Sathya Sai Baba, 6 Mar 1977 [/ssspeaks/volume13/sss13-29.pdf]