During adversity, a person’s true nature (Swa- self, bhaava- essence) gets exposed. In normalcy, many of us take on covering to fool others and sometimes ourselves. We take on roles to fit into what we believe is expected from us to be accepted as a member of the society around us. The current pandemic is acting as a cleaver, slicing the outer false shell and exposing the inner true nature.
Some of us are hoarding food and other essentials in quantities far beyond our wildest imagined needs. From toilet paper and canned meat to protective masks, vast quantities of materials have disappeared from stores as well as online retailers. Some people have hoarded medicines like hydroxychloroquine due to unsubstantiated statements of its ability to cure Covid-19 infections, at the cost of causing shortage to people who really need it for their immunological disorders. Some of these hoarders have become black marketeers. There are others who have built a virtual moat and stockade system around them, with stockpiles of essentials hoping to survive the pandemic by complete isolation, binging on streaming online entertainment, oblivious to the suffering around them.
At the same time, there are others who have seen the distress around them, and their true divinity gets manifest. These are the so called “ordinary” people who become extraordinary. When disaster strikes, they blossom into true heroes. A few weeks ago, my youngest daughter and I had gone to Neighborhood House, a local charity in Peoria (nhpeoria.org), a life-line to many of Peoria’s most vulnerable population, to volunteer for making long shelf life food packages and delivering food to the elderly. On the delivery day, we arrived 5 minutes before the scheduled time. To our surprise, the whole parking lot was filled with volunteers, and in a few minutes all the deliveries were assigned. I was truly humbled by the spirit of service in Peoria.
My first-hand knowledge is somewhat limited to my organization Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, USA and its sister organization Sewa International (sewausa.org) that have established help lines covering all the time zones of the country. Requests ranging from home bound elders for grocery delivery, hospitals requesting cloth masks, stranded travelers, immigration help to spousal abuse and emotional/mental support are being handled by the help lines. Feeding the homeless and supporting food banks by conducting food drives are being done. At some places, fundraising is being done to order food from local restaurants for the charity free food organizations, so that the local restaurant owners will earn money since their restaurants are closed to the public, and the hungry will get food, thereby achieving two good activities in one stroke.
The medical community starting from the front door greeters/security personnel to the EMT to the doctors and nurses are the brave hearts, holding back the tsunami of the pandemic, and hopefully soon overturning it. Fortunately, for us in central Illinois, the rampage of the virus is limited compared to New York and Louisiana. Some local children are sending thank you posters to the hospitals. Drawing these pictures of gratitude will encourage our heroes and also ingrain into the children the examples of service before self.
In Hindu Dharma, God manifests on earth (Avatar) when the balance of good and evil tilts too much in the favor of evil, and God rectifies the situation by annihilating the evil. One particular form of Avatar is called ‘Aveshavatar,’ where for a brief time God manifests special powers through an individual soul and acts through that person. I sincerely believe that each of the people who are helping others whether for an instant or by giving up their life while fighting for humanity are manifesting Aveshavatars channeling the divine force through their thoughts and acts. Lets all close our eyes for a few minutes and listen to our individual divine, manifesting through ourselves or through a prophet/philosopher, and do more than we are already doing.
Dr. Pattekar is a radiologist. He is national director of service activities for Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, USA. He also serves on the board of volunteers of the Hindu Temple of Central IL, Peoria.