A break in the madness--and couldn't we all use one right now?--for a story about how amazing and wonderful human beings can be.
Sarah Rich of Worldchanging is in Delhi at the Doors of Perception conference, checking out local food systems. She's posted a write-up of a Sikh institution, the Langar, which feeds 10,000 people a day on donated food and volunteer labor. She writes:
As Debra Solomon told us when introducing the excursion the previous evening: "They do the most exquisite dishwashing ritual you'll ever see." But actually, the Sikh guide who escorted us through the temple grounds told us in no uncertain terms that the kitchen activities are absolutely without ritual. "Cooking food is cooking food," he said, "No ritual. Just cooking." But if it can't be called a ritual, it can surely be called a dance -- a rhythmic, continuous choreography with mounds of dough, cauldrons of lentils, dozens of hands, and an endless stream of hungry visitors.
Every Sikh temple throughout the world has a Langar (Punjabi for "free kitchen"). This is not a soup kitchen. It's not exclusively for the poor, nor exclusively for the Sikh community. Volunteering in the cooking, serving and cleaning process is a form of active spiritual practice for devotees, but the service they provide asks no religious affiliation of its recipients. Our guide's chorus was, "Man, woman, color, caste, community," meaning you will be fed here regardless of how you fit into any of those classifications.
This spirit of inclusion and equality is reinforced by the kitchen's adherence to vegetarianism, not because Sikhs are vegetarian, but because others who visit may be, and by serving no meat, they exclude nobody.