“When you prepare a meal with artful awareness, it’s delicious and healthy. You have put your mindfulness, love, and care into the meal, then people will be eating your love. They can fully enjoy the meal with body and mind, just like you enjoy a beautiful work of art.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
That beautiful quote sums up the experience of the first Karma Kitchen
in Bucharest. Hosted by students, teachers, parents and friends of Verita International School
, the team of volunteers welcomed nearly 80 guests into this circle of kindness. From the moment they entered the gates, the guests could see, feel, read, listen, smell and literally taste the love in the air.
The day was magical and surreal. Even when it was snowing outside just a week before, we kept the intention of holding it outside in the yard where the kids are out of the school building and are free. We were blessed with a sunny afternoon and 21ºC temperatures. Andreea said, we attracted the Sun with our intentions.
The walls and the yard came alive with streams of flowers, birds, butterflies and posters all hand made. The tables were decorated with vases made by children, fresh flowers and each had a unique name tag — honesty, kindness, trust, joy, love, bloom, magic, connect, smile, and happiness.
The preparations started almost 2-weeks before with children making menus, decorations for the tables, walls, and the yard. While not every child was present on the day, every child contributed in some ways to the day. On the day, the kids were the heroes! They were eager to serve and help however they could.
“Why are you doing this?”
“because it makes us feel good and when we feel good we make others feel good and that spreads happiness everywhere”
As soon as they arrived in the school, they were eager to take on their roles. “Miss I want to serve”; “Miss can I make the orange juice”; “Miss can I tag the heart pins!”; “Miss where can I help?”… From decorating, to serving, to cooking, to cleaning; they stepped up for every task! All the servers for the tables were children so they were the face of Karma Kitchen. 10-year old Luiza, later shared in the volunteer closing circle how it was so much fun and while they had some difficulties they all enjoyed it very much!
The teachers and parents were amazed. Since it is an International school, most of the kids come from privileged families and teachers were amazed when they saw the kids mopping the floor, picking up the garbage and cleaning the tables! They said they never could have dreamed of it but today it was like they were in a different class! A class of life itself. Richard, the founder, shared how he felt, the whole event made the kids shine and express “I can do this!”. And they would now explore how they can take this spirit into class, every day and every week! Some of the parents were served by their own child and they couldn’t contain their happiness! Often the guests were moved to serve the servers :-) We had quite a few moments when hugs just won’t stop.
The cooking team was rock solid set in their domain. They had a perfect rhythm going on. If you went to the kitchen, there was calm and peace and it didn’t seem like cooking for a 100 people was going on there. One of the volunteers, Stéphanie, who is also a chef expressed how she has worked in many kitchens and restaurants but the atmosphere today was totally different. We didn’t know each other before today but we all were like a team. She wished the atmosphere was like that everywhere, in all other kitchens! Marian, who is also the school chef, also volunteered and sort of led the kitchen team without anyone feeling like they were being led. Sikander expressed how Marian had everything planned out and the team smoothly moved from one task to another! They truly embodied what Thich Nhat Hanh had once said that the energy of love and harmony in the kitchen will penetrate into the food that you are cooking to offer to your loved ones and yourself.
It took a lot of convincing to get them out of the kitchen for a photo! :-)
It was amazing to see how despite a lot of planning there were still things that we didn’t plan for and yet volunteers self organised. Somewhere in the middle of the first service, we realised that no one had really figured out how the dirty dishes are going to go down to the cleaning area and clean ones come up. But within no time we had a super efficient system of busing and dishwashing in place. Where kids would bring dirty dishes to the main station, Evelina will empty them and pile and Robert would carry it down to the dishwashing room, where magically people kept on rotating, and then take the clean ones up. “Nobody could take her away from that spot!”, someone shouted for Evelina.
There were also many interactive stations where parents and guests could connect with each other. The gratitude table was full of handmade gifts offered by friends and some coming all the way from India. The photo booth was a big hit and so was the wall of reflections. There were tiny take away posters of “Take what you need” urging people to look within and identify their true need, if it was hug or some silence or a smile or maybe a little treat! :-D
We don’t know if it was a coincidence or a lovely surprise of nature that this Karma Kitchen happened exactly on the 11th anniversary of the first Karma Kitchen in Berkeley.
We can’t really connect the dots to where the idea originated from but it did and when it did, we had no clue how to execute it in a school and we reached out. Only to be blown away with advise, support and help coming from Service Space friends all over the globe. Parag bhai cleared hours from his day to share their experience of holding Karma Kitchen in Fountainhead school
and walk us through the process on a video call, Audrey responded to each email promptly resolving our doubts or connecting us to more people, Shaalu sent us everything they had designed for KK Auroville and helped us with creating lists of materials, Meghna sent us a whole Wisdom Craft
package all the way from India and Trishna and Joserra responded to our last minute SOS emails. It is humbling to know how we are held so beautifully by everyone.
In the closing volunteers circle, Gabi, one of the teachers and co-founder shared, she felt this event was so important as it showed clearly how we can build connections between each other and learn new things. “I felt so happy today that children, parents, teachers put themselves into other people’s skins.”
Richard shared the school is about building community and giving back and events like this brings the community together. Human connection and community is something we long for and want and yet it is something which is lacking so much in present city life. He was grateful for being able to create such a space where we can connect like this.
Lila, the wild spirit behind the event was in tears and said that such opportunities that we can give to each other and to our kids, strengthen her long-standing belief that all of us, we are so much more than we even know… In the height of all activity, when she took a moment to just look around, she felt like a blossom that was beyond what she thought of each and every person out there because she could see them now in a different light. “In a way, I was looking at them for the first time.”
For many of us words could not describe how we felt. We were all overwhelmed with emotions. We ended the circle with a moment of gratitude for everyone who made the day possible. As we looked up, the sun was shining in our happy faces. Our bodies were tired but our souls were rested.