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Region 4 - Dawn Centre Christmas Party

It’s Christmas Party Time

Quite often I think about what I want. What I want now, what I want tomorrow, what I want in a year. I suppose we all do, that is human nature.

What we really need however, is quite different, although it may not seem that way at the time.
But if we stopped to think, during every minute of every day about what we need and how much we appreciate it, we wouldn’t have time to do everything else. For example, if I considered every single sound I could hear and marvelled at the function of the ear, I probably wouldn’t stop to actually listen to Bhajans or a friend who needs to talk.
So sometimes, it’s moments like this party where we can pause for thought, to look outside ourselves and learn from our brothers and sisters. I won’t pretend that all experiences are purely positive either, but it is up to us to sift through it all and decide what to absorb and to discard.

It takes a lot of organisation to set up a party! Nirali (Leicester Central Youth Coordinator) and all the Sai Youth did a brilliant job to divide responsibility of party games, ensure all decorations and electronic equipment was set up and even managed a last minute scramble for buffet food when we were told it wasn’t going to be provided! (Despite that, we still managed to bring enough to sink a ship, although I think the majority of it was eaten, so wastage was low).

It was important to treat residents as family, to respect elders and mingle with all. All people deserve respect from each other, but as we laid down the ground rules at the start (no swearing, no talking over each other etc.) we tried to instil the idea that residents should respect each other.

I don’t know the relationships that already existed between the residents who attended the party, but I loved to see, as the evening progressed, how they came together and made the experience enjoyable for each other. It was wonderful to see the shyer participants coming to the fore and volunteering for games.

Food is a commonly overlooked ‘need’; I feel it has become more of a want. It is when fasting or reducing intake for sadhana, that we realise how precious it really is. Of course this was a party so healthy eating principles weren’t really on the agenda! It was a wonderful opportunity to share food and eat together as friends, with people for whom social interactions involving food have become a luxury.

The Christmas presents were enjoyed by residents at the end of the party and I was lucky to receive thanks from a couple of the ladies who were very happy to have new hats for the winter. (On another note I will remember to colour code my gents and ladies presents next year!).

All in all, a fantastic success for the Sai Youth and I hope next year will be even better.
As ever, everything we do is for Swami and possible because of Him.

“Hands that serve are holier than lips that pray.”

Chetna Pandya, Youth
Leicester Central Sai Centre, Region 4

Sharing & Receiving the gift of Christmas

What comes to mind when you think of Christmas – presents, food, and lots of it, lights, trees, gifts, decorations, family, friends, snow, carols, movies, Santa Claus? Whatever you associate with Christmas, some undisputedly important elements are sharing joy, love and the Christmas spirit. Hence, we the youth of Leicester decided to impart these feelings with those less fortunate than ourselves by hosting a Christmas party for the residents at the Dawn Centre. The Dawn Centre is a temporary accommodation project for homeless people providing support, advice and assistance across the issues of health, housing, life skills and education regardless of race, gender, age, disability, sexuality, class or religion.

The event took place on 20th December 2014. After a welcome by Leicester Youth Coordinator, Nirali Sisodia, the party began. It was an exciting time full of games, singing, music, laughter and of course food. The activities that we organised included a tower building game, charades, opening and eating a Curly Wurly with the use of one hand only and tag Pictionary. These games provided an opportunity for us to work with residents as we teamed up with them to try and win each of the games. It was a time of friendly and light-hearted competition. With spirits high, residents took part in a karaoke. Singing classics like Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You”, George Michael’s “Last Christmas” with newer hits like Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”, I could sense that the residents were enjoying themselves, which was after all our aim.

Between the activities, I had the opportunity to chat to the residents and hearing some of their stirring life experiences. When talking to them, I could sense a subtle shadow of melancholy in their voices although many of them tried to exude an array of optimism, confidence and pride. This was something I thought was admirable.

Much to the dismay of many, the event had to draw to an end. As a final token of our want to share the Christmas feeling, each resident was given a Christmas present containing a pair of gloves, hat and scarf. When we arrived at the centre, a sense of despondency was evident on the faces of the residents. However at by the end, the countenances of many were that little more gleeful. Perhaps we had succeeded in sharing that happiness. Personally though, the most touching part of the evening was when one resident, with a voice of enthusiasm said, “same time next year”. As such, it felt as though they enjoyed and appreciated the evening, as much as we did.

“Manava Seva Madhava Seva” (Service to man is service to God), is the famous saying we have heard on countless occasions. Thought provokingly so, although we were attempting to serve the residents of the centre, they were in reality serving us by granting us the opportunity to host such an event and experience the joy that they were in fact giving us. They appreciated us but we too appreciated them. Hence we offer our gratitude to Swami for allowing us to share the Christmas festivities as we in turn received a priceless gift.

Dixa Thakrar, Youth
Leicester Central Sai Centre, Region 4