Lessons in trying to save the world

Yesterday, I tried to save the world. Well, just a little bit. Having nurtured a considerable passion for a while about wanting to contribute to a better world, I signed up with great enthusiasm for an event to help with an initiative for the education of underprivileged children. It was a rewarding day both for the positive and negative experiences and I came away with a few lessons/reflections that I think are worth sharing.

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The newspaper this morning carried the headline: ’26 January, the wettest Jan day in Delhi in a century’. No kidding. The heavens literally burst open yesterday. Not only was the timing unexpected given that it usually does not rain in January in north India (beyond the stray light shower), but the intensity of the thunderstorm was also unprecedented (at least in this century). But of course, having signed up to volunteer for my event, it didn’t cross my mind to cancel my attendance. Besides, it was still morning when I made my way to the venue and everyone expected the rain to subside in an hour or two at most. But this was not to be.

Standing at the gate of the venue with umbrella in one hand and clipboard in the other, I spent two hours at my first task alternating between changing the angle of the umbrella with the shifting direction of the rain (mostly failing) and trying to mark down the attendance of participants at the event on my clipboard. My prediction of the weather was not only wrong about the rain, but also the cold. I was therefore dressed more for a warm spring afternoon than for the thrashing rain and cold wind. I fervently wished I had put on my wind-breaker, jeans and trainers instead of light Indian wear and open sandals! Shivering and with cold and wet feet the thought that crossed my mind was, this is what volunteering means’. It was the first lesson. If you really want to help someone else, it means setting yourself aside. And that’s not always easy. While it sounds great to try to save the world, the practical aspect can be challenging and requires real commitment.

First task done, I then moved onto the next activity of creating charts for schoolchildren. Not as easy as it sounds. The chart I was assigned was one of making different geometrical shapes and God knows I struggled with getting the measurements of my cube and cuboid right! It didn’t help that we were doing them on the floor which was covered by a carpet that wasn’t easy to draw on. I silenced the negative thoughts about the management of the event – this was not a professional set-up after all, where I could say how things could be done better; these were unpaid volunteers doing their best. I could feel my irritation rising as some other volunteers hovered around the groups, making comments about how something could be changed or done better. I’ll admit at times, I had to consciously remind myself that this was for a good cause so that I would not be irritated. This was the second lesson – before trying to change the outer situation, mind the inner situation. There is no point trying to change the world if your own heart and mind are not 100% overflowing with joy and love. In the words of Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, before wiping someone else’s face, make sure your own hand is clean. These little instances of irritation made me realise that even if you’re doing noble work, your reactions to small negative happenings will not magically change until you have worked on yourself and transformed yourself to be unaffected by these in the first place. The greatest service to the world is to make oneself into a joyful and loving human being. If individual people change, the world will change automatically.

Overall, the experience was really valuable on a personal level. I woke up the next morning feeling a definite change in myself – both from the good feeling of doing something for others and changing the world and also from the valuable insights/lessons learned in doing something for and changing myself.

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Shruti Bakshi
Shruti Bakshi is the Founder of the LivingWise Project. She has worked for several years in banking and financial services in London, Paris and Mumbai. Shruti writes about life at the intersection of spirituality and modern society. Her debut novel 'From Dior to Dharma' was released in May 2017. International link: From Dior to Dharma
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5 Replies to “Lessons in trying to save the world”

  1. Ulingana

    Again, your words resonate Shruti… in the volunteer world there is ‘shining knight’ syndrome where we go out to ‘help’ people and single handedly change the world!! But what you said is what I learn first hand in Africa… we can hope only to become in harmony with life, and the hand of life will support life’s children. How beautiful!
    (by the way I move into a yoga ashram when I return to England…that will be my life now… my teacher is lineage Satyananda Saraswati / Sivananda Saraswati… I will continue my blog from there in a month’s time.)
    Kindest wishes to you Shruti
    Tony

    • Shruti Bakshi

      Thank you Tony, always so good to hear your views. Re volunteering, I suppose it goes back to the arrogance of us humans to think we’re doing something when really we’re too tiny to do anything that’s not the will of a greater power…I’m sure your time in Africa has been wonderful experience though. It’s a blessing to be an instrument for noble work.
      It’s great to hear you’ll be moving into Sivananda Saraswati’s ashram, thanks for sharing the news. It’s a big step that takes courage and the support of Grace, so you’re fortunate! I hope to visit a couple of ashrams in India over the next couple of months too..
      Looking forward to reading more of your writing soon from the ashram.
      Very best wishes and take care Tony,
      Shruti

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