Last week a dear friend of ours from India visited Ananda Village for the first time. What a wonderful experience it was showing her around and explaining to her the many aspects of this remarkable community.
Amazed by what she had experienced, our friend quietly said, “No matter how much you told me about Ananda Village, there was no way I could imagine what I saw here. The radiance and purity of the people, the spirit of service, the simplicity of life, the flow of activity in every area—I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere.”
Seeing Ananda through her eyes we saw anew how living in a spirit of cooperation and service can change your consciousness, and transform the world around you. Every area we saw had been given the same conscious thought and care to make it the best it could be.
It was raining hard for the first few days that our friend was visiting, and the unpaved areas had become wet and muddy. One afternoon I made a quick trip to the community trash/recycling/compost center to drop off our kitchen waste. Well-labeled bins and detailed instructions about what to put where had been posted there by the property services crew. As I avoided the muddy puddles, I thought to myself, “Even this inglorious part of our community is well cared for.”
Next to the compost bins is a hose for rinsing empty buckets. I added my “contribution” to our community gardens into the bin, and then saw that the hose was lying on the wet ground in a tangle. After straightening it out, I rinsed my bucket, then let the hose fall back into a muddy puddle. Then I hurried to get into my car and out of the rain.
But something stopped me. Thinking about the beautiful ideals of cooperation and service that we’d been discussing with our friend, I heard a voice within me say, “Leave it better than when you came.” I went back, lifted the hose out of the mud, and carefully coiled it on its stand. Driving home, I felt surprisingly moved by the impact of this simple act.
Later I shared the experience with our son, who said, “When I’m driving and see a nail on the road, I always pull over and pick it up. I’d like someone to do that for me, so I’ll do it first.”
The accumulated power of these unseen acts of service can define one’s whole life: Leave it better than when you came. Each day we can leave our home, our job, our family, our friends, our community, our consciousness, our world better than we found it.
The simple prayer commonly attributed to St. Francis of Assisi* expresses this in a beautiful and elevated way:
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury: pardon;
Where there is error: truth;
Where there is doubt: faith;
Where there is despair: hope;
Where there is darkness: light;
And where there is sadness: joy.
Each simple act of selfless giving reminds us of our purpose on earth: to be an instrument of God’s upliftment and love. At the end of our life’s journey, what a joy it will be to say to our Creator, “I left this world better than when I came.”
With loving friendship,
*“Interestingly, the prayer for which St. Francis is best known, ‘Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace,’ has been discovered in recent years, in the archives of a monastery in Belgium, actually to have been written by William the Great (also called ‘the Conqueror’), who Yogananda himself said he had been.” —Swami Kriyananda, in Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography
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