A Season of Seva – In the Spirit of Service

Season of Seva - In the Spirit of Service

Every year at this time I get ready for the festive season. Between Thanksgiving, Diwali, birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas, the last quarter of the year just races by. There are many occasions to celebrate and so many opportunities to be grateful. Grateful for this abundance of family and friends, grateful for the opportunities and second chances. This year things feel different though. Let’s be honest, 2020 has been a nightmare of a year. As if the pandemic were not bad enough, we are bombarded with images of devastating forest fires, terrible hurricanes, melting ice in the Arctic, hottest temperature recorded in Death Valley, locust plagues destroying crops globally, the list goes on. It all feels a little apocalyptic. Then there’s the rage on the streets protesting inequality; the systemic racism against black people. With so much going on, I really haven’t been in a festive frame of mind. What I would like to do though is start the season off with a word of thanks and the spirit of seva.

What is Seva?

Seva is rooted in a Sanskrit word that means “selfless service.” Historically, it is work performed without any thought of reward or return. In addition to being a tenet in many religions around the world, it is also a global concept of compassion and care for our families & communities, friends & strangers. It is the tireless efforts of volunteer work by believers and non-believers alike. It is the answer to the question, “How can I improve the life of others?”

With technology and social media, we are supposed to be connected like never before. At the same time, it is very easy to feel isolated. In this constant state of out-of-control motion and isolation, it is natural to feel self-doubt. You might even wonder:

“Can I really make a difference?’

“Do my actions really matter?”

I admit, it is impossible to change the world in one fell swoop. But if we focus on the small steps, individual actions, and their impact on the community around us, the village in which we live, we can change the world.

Seva in the time of Social Distancing

So much has happened in 2020, and so much of it is bad news. This terrible year has brought so much heartbreak and loss and I’m ready to turn the page. Let’s regain control of what we have lost and end the year with seva. A season of seva. 

So how can WE improve the life of others? During a pandemic?

How does one help others while being responsible, safe and physically distant?

Here are ideas to get us all started. Add more to this list and when you share, tag us @mapleandmarigold.

Check on your Neighbours, Family & Friends 

We have been social distancing in our little bubbles for months. It’s the right thing to do in light of the pandemic. But it also brings with it a sense of loneliness. Take a moment to call or visit a friend or family member. Better still, check in on a neighbour you may not have seen for a while. Go through your contact list and schedule a call, drop a note. Do this meticulously, with intent and grace. Sometimes (and I say this from experience) it’s the quiet, confident ones who need the support.

Season of Seva - Support Your Local Farmer
Sunset View over Canola fields in Manitoba

Support your local farmers

I can’t stress this enough – we know very little about where our food comes from, and even less about those who grow it. A good start to remedy this? Support your local farmers. Buy local, buy direct when you can. Thankfully this is still possible in many parts of the world. Ontario (where I live) is full of apple orchards, farmers markets and more.

Find out how you can support the farmers in your community by educating yourself about their challenges. Advocate on their behalf. Farmers feed the world and they do this because they love the land and what they grow and raise. In this time of enormous global uncertainty they need our help. And when we support the farming community, we directly contribute to our nation’s economy.

Be a Patron to a Local Business

The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on small businesses in our community. So many are struggling to keep their doors open. And the reality is that we don’t know how long this situation will last. Think how bland our lives would be without the local flavour of corner stores, neighborhood cafés and deli, vintage clothing, spice racks and art & craft stores. These small establishments are an integral part of every local landscape. And with travel restricted in most parts of the world, this is an opportunity to explore what is in your own backyard. Next time you’re out shopping, find a local supplier and buy local. Be a vocal supporter. Become an ambassador for the small business of your choice.

Donate to feed the hungry

Food insecurity is an ugly side-effect of the pandemic, and families are being forced to use food banks in growing numbers. Our economic recovery may take months or longer. Find a way to support your local food bank or shelter. Or you can support my cause. Buy the How to SHOP YOUR PANTRY eBook. All proceeds from the sales go towards supporting Second Harvest Canada. They are doing wonderful work to help feed families around the country.

Use What You Have & Reduce What You Throw 

We are in the midst of an enormous global crisis. With looming scarcity around the corner, never has it been more important to use what we have and reduce what we throw away. When it comes to food, cut down on waste. North Americans, Canadians in particular throw away more than half of the food produced in Canada. Change that statistic by shopping only when you absolutely need it, reduce what you bring in, use what you have, and reduce what you throw away. Be creative in the way you cook. Use parts of the fruit and vegetable you normally wouldn’t. Say no to single-use plastic. Say no to single-use everything. I have tons more ideas here in #20EarthActions.

Our planet is a shared resource, and we all need to do our part to reduce the burden on it. “Seva” is work done to improve the life of others, and taking steps to clean the environment? That’s a good start right there.

Acknowledge and SUPPORT the efforts of others

Start with the essential workers. For months now, nurses, doctors, teachers, police officers, grocery store workers, firefighters, sanitation workers and numerous others have shielded us from the devastating effects of the pandemic.  They have carried on to ensure that life goes on as close to normal as possible for the rest of us. And then there are others like bank workers, coffee baristas, restaurant staff, daycares even and many more who are helping to keep our economy moving. Their contribution is invaluable and deserving of credit every chance we get. 

It takes a village…

We are all intricately connected — as a community, as a society. This global pandemic has helped us see how our actions directly and often immediately impact the life of others. Wear a mask. It protects you and others from falling sick. Maintain physical distance to keep your germs to yourself. Wash hands regularly and as often as you can to stay healthy.

You and I, all of us together can make a difference — one small step at a time.

This festive season, we may not be able to gather around the dinner table as we have done in the past, but we can still celebrate and support each other. Join me in this season of seva. We would love to hear from you on how you support your community. Comment here or share where you are. Tag us @MapleandMarigold so we can support you too!

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About Puneeta

Author, Educator, Speaker

Puneeta is a writer, food advocate and guide for those who seek earth-friendly, delicious solutions that work for real life.

Puneeta Chhitwal-Varma, Food Writer, Climate Advocate, New cookbook - Good Food, Healthy Planet - out April 2024
Puneeta Chhitwal-Varma
Photo by Diana Muresan
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