What I learned from Gandhi
One of the most important historical figures of India is Mahatma Gandhi. Ghandi was a gentle, yet powerful leader who led his country to independence from Britain through non-violent resistance. Gandhi is also known as Bapu, or grandfather in India. During the later years of his life, Gandhi lived in a community where people came together to be a part of his teachings, his beliefs and his practices. This special community was called an ashram and it was founded in 1936 and was located in Sevagram, India.
Every morning a bell rings to wake me up at 4:30 a.m. The hot sun is not up yet and I hear the sound of the crickets buzzing. I carefully make my way through the yard where I pass several huts made of bamboo and mud. Quietly, I join a group of a dozen men and women dressed in simple, white clothing. They are sitting cross-legged on the porch of the community leader's hut. As we begin to sing, the songs of birds mix with our voices.
After getting up so early for these morning songs and prayers, instead of wanting to crawl back into bed, I feel clear-headed and awake. I start to understand why Gandhi himself always prayed and studied during the hours before the sun came up. I decide to read for awhile before the work day begins at 6:30 a.m.
In this community, the work day includes a number of different projects and the first one that I work on each day is gardening. If you're going to work in the garden in India, early morning is the best time to do it. Later in the day, the sun gets too hot! I am working with two men and the three of us are pulling up grass and weeds to prepare the garden for planting. After all the days that I have spent traveling on trains and buses, my body is a little confused by this physical work, but it feels good. Ghandi often spoke of the importance of physical work and he believed that every person should take part.
After lunch, I gather with the group on the porch where we sit with metal trays. Our next work project is to carefully pick the rocks from kernels of wheat. This wheat will be ground by hand into flour. The work is boring but we talk and stay cool in the shade while we work. I chat with a friendly man who speaks English fairly well. After awhile, I realize that work like this allows people to communicate and to build a sense of community. Gandhi's teachings and practices have so many benefits!
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