Posted by Vishesh Gupta on Jun 14, 2020
It's my pleasure to introduce Leela, who will be one of our summer interns!
Here are some excerpts from her that inspired us:
What does service mean to you?
To me, service is a two-way street. It’s an act of kindness that has always served to replenish my own faith in the life and love around me. Today, the world is in an unprecedented industrialized age, where success is exemplified in constant hard work and productivity. For me, service has been a reprieve from this endless, often capitalistic, cycle of duty and production. Community service will always be a part of the career path that I plan to take, as it has allowed me to deeply understand my role in our broader global society. At the end of my tenth grade year, I was feeling over-stressed, anxious, and purposeless. These are feelings that come with the anguish of adolescence, however, I knew I couldn’t stand to not do anything about it. I made the decision to travel to India, my parent’s home country, to volunteer for there for the summer. At Maher Ashram, a home for destitute men, women, and children, I taught classes and worked with women and children who had been previously impoverished or in abusive situations. I led English and Computer Literacy classes, and designed dance classes, art projects, and sports games for the younger kids. These acts of services benefited both individuals at Maher Ashram as well as my own self - it was cathartic for me to remove myself from the high strung, capitalistic American experience and live for sometime in rural India’s monsoon summer. The process of serving a community taught me valuable life skills, such as organization, compassion, discipline, and self-reflection. The word “service” comes with a connotation: it’s something that is supposed to be entirely selfless, stemming purely from the generosity of one’s spirit. However, my act of service last summer was also a gift to myself. In those two months, I felt genuine consistent happiness while working in the classroom, meditating with my newfound friends, and teaching toddlers to walk in the pounding Indian summer rain. However cliche it may sound, service is a gift that keeps on giving. It is an experience that I will harbor, and I know it will define whichever path I decide to take.
What draws you to intern with ServiceSpace?
When I was in India, I met Mark Peters, an inspiring, energetic, and hilarious person who also hailed from the San Francisco Bay Area. One night, he invited our group of volunteers to take a two hour Rickshaw ride and experience what he called an “Awakin Circle.” I was so excited to just be asked to come along, I barely even thought about what an Awakin Circle was. When I walked into the room, I felt an immediate sense of both connection and content, two feelings that are rarely in the same room together. I remember the meditation well, and the reflections even better. The various stories of human kindness, experience, and history were calming to listen to, and the meal I ate after was lovely. It is an experience I will carry with me forever.Fast forward a couple months, when COVID-19 had officially become a global pandemic. Mark invited me to join the virtual Santa Clara Awakin Circle, and in the midst of AP tests and finals, I was able to attend two sessions. Each session I attended was eye opening, and I felt a strong sense of community, even through my computer screen. That sense of community - the kind where people were on a first name basis and kindness was authentic - is hard to come by, and I didn’t want to lose it. I am drawn to intern with ServiceSpace because I want to take part in the community they have helped to foster through the various projects they have started out of a desire to spread goodness. It’s inspiring to me that such an organization even exists, and I want to be a part of it.
And something extra:
This summer, I would like to try the personal practice of facing a fear, whether it is small or big, every week. This could mean anything, from apologizing to a friend to making an important speech. I think what this will do for me is help me realize my own potential, and cut off any mind blocks that I have. In the past, some of my personal practices have included turning off my phone for the day to rest my eyes and mind, riding my bike every other day, and being fully present (not going on Twitter) during class zoom calls. All of these practices have been helpful and beneficial for me.