We are nearly four months into the COVID-19 crisis in this country, and people are getting tired. How long will this go on? Yet, there are those among us who don’t ask the question as much as quietly continue to give their time to help Americans in need through the crisis, however long it takes. It’s good to be reminded of that.
“You are a part of me I have not yet met.” Attorney and activist Valarie Kaur offers this saying as a revolutionary philosophy to live by when meeting someone new. She introduces this concept she learned from her grandfather, a Sikh American farmer in northern California, in her new book “See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love.” As I read Kaur’s book I am reminded that it is Kaur’s work Mona Asadi ’22 writes about that inspires her to meet religious and racial oppression with revolutionary love.
Kaur also writes about of the centrality within Sikhism of “sewa,” selfless service. Knowing this is a guiding principle for them, I reached out to friends of Chapman in the Orange County Sikh community to learn what they were doing for the community in the midst of the pandemic. I learned The Sikh Center of Orange County (SCOC) Food Pantry has been hosting drive-through food distributions. It is a natural extension of the regular Sikh practice of “langar.” This is a free community meal offered globally wherever there is need, where everyone is welcome regardless of race, religion, gender, or any other potential bias. The SCOC Food Pantry (firstname.lastname@example.org) opened its doors to provide over 650 families nutritious and balanced groceries at food drives, and to date has been able to provide food for approximately 60,000 meals.
Alumni from Chapman’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts put together a short film on these efforts. When added to efforts of Sikh communities throughout Southern California, they amount to hundreds of thousands of meals as well as groceries and face masks distributed to the community.
Bandana Singh says the pantry plans to continue as a drive-through as long as the pandemic requires, and to keep running as a sustainable food pantry in the future. The community has truly stepped up, and Singh adds, “The amount of support we have received from the community, including the Santa Ana Police Department, Santa Ana Unified School District, local leaders, volunteers, and neighbors has been amazing, and we hope to continue to strengthen these relationships as we continue.”
As millions of individuals continue to be out of work and need to feed their families, tens of thousands continue to reach out, quietly, every day and every week, to fill the void together. Many serve because they believe it’s the right thing to do, motivated by their education, teachers, and role models to care about their neighbors. Many are inspired to do so, because for centuries Jewish people have welcomed the stranger, Jesus blessed and fed those who were hungry, Muhammad taught caring for any in need, and Guru Nanak spread the message that one should see no stranger. A network of drive-through pantries by community organizations and houses of worship from many faiths in Orange County are featured in a recent article in the Voice of OC.
“You are a part of me I have not yet met.” We have much to share, and much to learn from one another. Offering service to people simply because we are one community and they are a part of us is a revolutionary act. I am grateful, knowing some of you are involved in these daily efforts through offering your support or participation. I hope being mindful of the incredible service occurring all around us brings hope to you, as it does me, in this time when all else is so uncertain.