There is an immense value and gratification, when people assimilate and shape a community of caring individuals. Individuals who seek to know and be known, strive for positive results, accomplish goals, discover commonalities – all for the benefit of the community. True seva is most evident in thriving communities, where the needs of others are placed above our own.
A community is not defined by one’s address, but by that sense of belonging one finds by being together, wherever you are. We do things together to support each other, network and share our best with others. This support is what draws people to a community. It is about promoting new friendships and comradery as we embrace diversity through hospitality. When we engage, inspire, support, and motivate, we receive the same.
The display of openness, commitment, welcoming, extending yourself and getting to know the others. Being integrated, demonstrating trust and respect, without any judgement. These are the values of a seva community.
And it is just this sort of community that I discovered in the midst of writing about this idea of seva – selfless service.
I moved to Luxembourg in early 2020, and equipped with plenty of experience as an “expat”, I set about on my uppermost agenda: meeting and connecting with people. I felt as if I was planted in Luxembourg to share my journey of my thirty year career in hospitality; to encourage and support others in their efforts to serve.
But as the lockdowns began, my plans of spreading my wings were clipped. I took every opportunity to connect with the few friends I had met. But after a year of lockdown, I doubted whether I would build true community. Even our local church had to stop Sunday services!
But as I began work on my book, “Seva: The Art of Hospitality”, something quite special occurred. I discovered more and more friends; I received incredible support. So much so that I began to include these stories in my book.
In effect, I was receiving seva from a newly developing community, while writing on the subject of seva. This was a confirmation for me that I was meant to meet these wonderful characters that were quickly becoming part of my story; that our paths had crossed just for this purpose.
Community is about Support
After four months of writing and another four to get it ready for publishing, it was time for the book launch on November 1, 2021. The support and encouragement I received from a growing number of friends and family helped me to achieve my goal. Of course, the hard work of promoting the book had only begun.
I had not planned or ever considered a book-reading or book-signing, let alone a book launch. For a new author, a first book reading, in a new place, where English is not the first language, can be quite daunting. But with the persistent support and guidance of a dear friend, I gave my first book-reading last week.
Zenia Dutta Roy graciously offered to host this event in her beautiful space, Les Sûtras. Zenia timed the book-reading to collaborate with and host, Liz van Zeeland’s exquisite art exhibit of visual form, composition and movement. Liz’s beautiful and tasteful artwork graced the walls of the book reading space, the vivid colors brought light, life and joy in the space, it completely enhanced the setting.
We both worked tirelessly to invite as many people as we could to the event. And what emerged out of the effort was a collection of our various communities. Smaller communities coming together.
What a pleasure to be in the same room to witness collective friendships comprised of chefs, restaurant managers, stylists, teachers, designers, artists, journalists, and entrepreneurs (with the inclusion of many new faces who would soon become my friends).
Everyone arrived in a timely fashion, we took pictures, grazed around the buffet, sipped champagne, devoured the delectable cupcakes provided by Bhairavi of ‘Edible Love’, and mingled with great cheer. When it was time to venture to the assembly hall, I started to feel a little nervous. I remember saying to myself: ‘You can do this! Most of them are my friends and if you slip up, we will all just laugh about it later’!
I made prepared remarks to start the event. But it wasn’t until I began to include everyone in the room, introducing some of the real characters in the book, that I started to become more relaxed. I was talking to friends, not strangers.
And as I completed the reading, I decided to open up the floor and we all just began conversing. I even asked some of the guests for their comments. The exchange was entertaining and lively. Afterwards, as I signed books, I had such special conversations with so many who came.
Connected by Community
I was humbled by our local community, by the generosity of their time and attention; by how they remained engaged till I had finished reading the last word, demonstrating genuine interest by asking questions, exhibiting good cheer and participation throughout the evening.
During the reading I made a point of noting how important making connections was. ‘We all must connect!’ It was a way of encouraging them to continue to build community.
The following morning, I began receiving texts from several who attended, some of whom I had met for the first time. They were asking me to connect with them. We set up dates for coffee for the following week!
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” (Martin Luther King)
I am truly grateful for my Luxembourg community for their inclusivity and kind hospitality. Their display of seva as a community is remarkable.