Be the Cause

6 of us returned home today from Sri Lanka-London…

Some of us travelled back to the states today…twenty plus hours in the air…plus a night layover for Jason, Anna, Supun, Shwetha, and I in London! Sonali had to leave for U.S. right after we arrived at Heathrow Airport…it was hard to say goodbye to her. She gave and did soooo much, with Supun to create such an amazing adventure, service opp. in Sri Lanka! I’ve never been to London, UK until now. We got to experience the Tube “Mind the Gap” subway system and got to roam around in downtown area and meet Supun’s childhood friend…also named Supun for dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was cooooold…compared to Sri Lanka’s balmy, humid, rainy weather. We walked by one area and there was a premiere of Sweeney Todd and star crossed fans were waiting for this fabulous actor I’m sure you’ve heard about: Johnny Depp (Be still my heart). We tried to wait and see him on the red carpet, but had to move on. It was nice to transition to London for some reason. Everything was very eye catching…and some franchise stores we know such as Nike Town, etc, but it felt really exciting and invigorating to me…the weather and the travelling on the tube, and exploring around. A few of us went back to the hotel and were kinda nodding off on the tube…I was kinda worried we’d all fall asleep and miss our stop. Some of the crew went to go check out Buckingham Palace. Of course we all missed Sri Lanka and fellow volunteers: some still in Colombo and some who are going to India to Manav Sadhna and to see family.

While travelling in the airplane to London, some reflective thoughts emerged for me. I was thinking about where fearful thoughts get people…nowhere. Fear breeds more fear and creates and accelerates war, confusion, and terror. We’re all guilty of feeling fear here and there throughout our lives…but this quote entered my mind throughout the plane ride: “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. I feel for myself, I’m fairly fearless…but my mind tries to talk me out of a lot of things, and if I feel people are concerned about me regarding travel, serving in dangerous places or the like: I try and appease them and almost take in their worry as my own…when my original thought/choice comes from a place of peace. I think sometimes I ask a ton of questions because my mind wants to clarify and compartmentalize information, and can just say whatever’s on my mind-eeksville…sometimes this is beneficial, sometimes not. But what’s interesting is how it’s the heart that wins out…it felt safe in the wisest place in me to travel to Sri Lanka. I knew we’d be protected from harm.

The other day, Sonali took some of us shopping. We at lunch at this Cricket Club restaurant. There was something that took place like a few blocks away from us…some bomb scare. It wasn’t quite clear what had happened…I think we felt a bit on alert, but I felt still calm and not worried in my heart…of course, again…my mind/ego wanted to ask all types of questions and find out exactly what happened. I kind of wish I had a Sri Lankan newspaper right now to find out the details…but I can look it up online. While we ate, I felt a bit distracted…and I think mostly because of some sadness I felt…that there’s this turmoil going on in some areas of Sri Lanka and in other countries. In London, our cab driver (to airport this morning) mentioned some tension between Muslims and other residents in London. To me, it feels trivial…this kind of struggle between peoples…it just needs to end…the racial profiling, fears, miscommunication, and misrepresentation…but I’m just a visitor en route, so listened a bit to the cab driver’s complaints about London and listened in earnest, but also some objectiveness and I felt this shock inside the core of me…wondering why so much anger has to surface here and there ongoingly throughout our world…

And then I thought of our service vacation and the pride and warmth in my heart for all who were on this service trip and all of you who held down the fort while we were gone…I thought of service and what a gift it brings others and ourselves. I’m in awe–remembering some of the crew sorting and handing out school shoes to children at a Tsunami relief camp, a few getting into a tuk tuk (rickshaw) to take a boy to a doctor…who fell on his head while playing ball, connecting and working with kids/teachers in Lunugamvera and Mahasena.

The compassion we all experienced could make anyone dizzily happy with love brimming over…comparable to the many cups of tea we drank.

And regarding the volunteers…the compassion/kindness to each other was tangible…whether it occurred by someone giving up a seat for someone else, sharing snacks, giving a high five, hug, looking out for each other..with a smile and kind gift: either by actually gifting an object to pass on or keep…or just amazing gifts to the children, people we met on our roadtrip adventure of light and hope.

Sri Lanka Jan 9th, 11am

2 bombs went off in Colombo yesterday. There have been 3 that we know of since our trip began. We aren’t sure how to respond. We may pass out some flyers today asking people to pass on the flyer after reading it. It will say something like, “Without Killing, let’s progress with good intentions”. We’ll try to get it translated in Tamil, Sinhala, Hindi and English. We feltuneasy about talking about it. Our group was concerned about where it happened and how many people were killed. An MP was killed.

Colombo has been in high alert since some high ranking LTTE commanders were killed in an attack. The “ceasefire” is about to formally end in a few days. There was no real end to killing from either the government or the LTTE during the ceasefire.

Just the other night, some of us were wondering how did South Asia become so chaotic. This area is where ideas like Ahmisa, Dhamma, Sataygraha, etc were formulated. But during a strange 20th century filled with ideas of violent revolution, it seems the sons and daughters of those people have already forgotten. I guess it only takes one bomb blast to anger people and a few more to create more hate and fear. Then after a few more, people can become de-sensitized to meaningless killing. The ideas of violent revlolution are foreign,but nobody understands why places like Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Burma, etc are so deep into buying weapons and using them against each other.

Sonali cried after she saw a little dog get run over. The dog was sleeping on the road and got hit by a vehicle. This happened while our van was broken down. It was really lucky because we broke down right next to a house of a mechanic. It took us about 2-3 hours to get it fixed and get back to Colombo. We missed visiting the Pinnewela Elephant Orphanage because of the delay. But we felt pretty lucky to be safely back at the hotel. Silva, our amazing driver, was asked at the parts shop if the travelers he was driving were mad at him. He said proudly, “these people are like no other I’ve been with”. Silva has become part of the group and has jumped in to helping out with everything we do.

We visited the Dambulla Rock temple. Some of us meditated. I was thinking about if Gautama would like that we have statues of him. I think early on people made statues of an empty throne with slippers next to it that have been left behind. I was told to think of the iconification of the Buddha as a reminder to be mindful. That’s why his back is erect and eyes look calm, etc. So, I guess it’s just to reinforce some practices the same way some Americans put up a picture of (my favorite American) Malcolm X on their wall.

Before Dambulla, we spent a couple hours at the Mahasena Village school and offically opened the library. They prepared an assembly where they danced and sang and recited for us. One play was about a man in a rush to go somewhere. He asks what people are doing, to only respond, “I don’t have time, I have to get somewhere.” Until he meets a woman that he wants to marry on the way. The principle says that the message for us  that we might be on our way somewhere, but that we might find “something else” during the journey.

Laura, Raju, Shwetha, and I gave a short talk to thank them for all that they did for us in welcoming us for a few days. Laura made us all cry. I ended up talking a little too long. I tried to tell the kids of some of my heros, Sukh, Nirali, Sheetal, Manuri, Kristeen and how each of them made my world better. We tried to tell them that we would be very satisfied if we found out that the kids we met inspiring someone else because of how they were affected by something we said or something we did. In 2 days, it was tough to have a deep conversation.

The teachers and other people wanted our contact info. It felt good to make new connections.

We gave a small gift to the mason that has been working night and day through rain. There were a few other people that had started our work since Dec 19th. Without them, we wouldn’t have the flexibility in our schedule.

We filled the library with almost 200 books and 2 brand new cabinets. The library is almost complete. Just some fixtures, 2 windows and some plaster is yet to be done. We filled in cement for a payment next to the library and helped plant some new trees.

The day before that we visited Sigiriya ( with teachers and students. After that we went on an elephant safari. We saw 10 or 12 elephants. They move so fluidly and gracefully for such a large animal. Nishanthi, one of the teachers with us, said that 2 nights ago, an elephant came by her house.

This whole trip we were entertained, taken on tours, and fed us well. We can’t repay the hospitality we’ve felt. Good intentions are rewarded.

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