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Eye of the Hurricane: How SewaDiwali Made Me Realize ‘We are Not in the Same Boat’

Eye of the Hurricane: How SewaDiwali Made Me Realize ‘We are Not in the Same Boat’

  • The hurricane that has blanketed our world is not going to magically go away come 2021. But through sheer determination, hope, and unity we can pull ourselves out of this storm.

2020 has been a bit of a whirlwind, hasn’t it? We started the year with the Hong Kong protests, then there were the fires in Australia, COVID-19 is declared a global pandemic, the Democratic Republic of Congo reported its first case of Ebola, the number of coronavirus cases passes 2 million, then 4 million, flash floods in Somalia, then we had earthquakes in Mexico, then before we know it, we’ve passed 47 million cases of COVID-19, and now it’s December. Feels bizarre, doesn’t it? 

You have to admit though, this global pandemic of ours makes for a great conversation starter: “Hello, everyone, it’s a shame we can’t meet in person due to our unfortunate situation, but we must persevere.” Another thing I’ve heard a lot, especially now, is, “Hey, don’t get so frustrated, we’re all in the same boat here.” “We’re doing the best we can under our current circumstances, so let’s stick it through.” For the longest time, I was satisfied with this sentiment, that we’re all in the same boat, rowing diligently against a ruthless ocean, faced with furious weather and monstrous waves. Yet, as we walk further along this path, this unusual journey of ours, a lot of us have grown weary of hearing the same thing countless times. “We’re all in the same boat.” 

And the fact of the matter, this saying is simply wrong. We like to say that, that we’re all in the same boat, but the reality is, some of us are riding in yachts, some venture out in flimsy rowboats, and some of us are clinging for dear life to sharp planks of wood floating about the sea. Sure, we’re all sailing the same sea, facing the same weather, braving the same fierce tidal waves, but we’re not in the same boat. Not even close. 

But during these trying times, people grew curious about the ocean that surrounded them. They peeked over the railing of their towering yacht and saw a family of four, struggling to stay afloat in their shaky little rowboat. “Were they always there?” they wondered. Then they extended their hand over the railing, reaching out to the family below. “Come on up!” they cried, smiling. “We’ve got plenty of room up here!” 

It was in the darkest of the night that people opened their eyes and began to see. They reached out over the sides of their sailboats and cruisers, pulling those below up onto their ships. 

Since the beginning of lockdown, it’s become increasingly clear that though this pandemic affects all of us, it’s at wildly different rates. Families like my own only feel the inconvenience of staying indoors all the time, while others are robbed of their livelihood, struggling to feed their families every night. So several organizations have taken it upon themselves to fight against the waves that work to pull everyone underwater: Project Hope is a non-profit that specializes in relief-aid, FareStart is dedicated to feeding the hungry in America, Give Directly offers financial aid to those in need, and there are countless others, all because people wanted to make “we’re all in the same boat” a reality. 

SewaDiwali is an effort formed by a collection of organizations that work toward a common goal: Sewa Dharma. Their ideology states that “Service to Humanity is Service to the Divinity.”

In fact, this year, during the Hindu festival known as Diwali, celebrated by replacing darkness with light, an organization dedicated themselves to feeding the hungry in America, along with those affected by the pandemic. SewaDiwali is an effort formed by a collection of organizations that work toward a common goal: Sewa Dharma. Their ideology states that “Service to Humanity is Service to the Divinity.” and as such this initiative has been responsible for the collection of 294,000 lbs. of food across 176 organizations.

We’ve donated to over 199 soup kitchens, food pantries, and collection centers in more than 225 townships across the region. Across the nation, with the help of 179 organizations, 400 food collection centers, 26 states, 210 cities, and 2500 families, thousands of people had a proper meal for the first time in a long time. It may seem small or even irrelevant when absorbing these stats from the perspective of someone who’s well off in America, but when you look at the bigger picture, it’s incredible how much of a difference a couple of extra pounds of food could make to a family that wasn’t sure of where their next meal was coming from. 

While I can’t say I participated all that much, I accompanied one of our family friends on a drive through our beautiful city. We were supposed to deliver potatoes and other food items to all the houses on our list, and truthfully? I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. 

I’d seen run-down neighborhoods before in movies and on TV. Never in my own city. It was as though I’d been living in an entirely different world than the people here. I told my mother about my experience, saying something along the lines of, “it made me realize how insignificant I am. I’ve lived my life like I’m at the center of the universe, but in reality, I’m just a fraction of this world.” I was satisfied with my half-profound statement about life and all its mysteries when my mother added, “yeah, well. A fortunate fraction.” 

A fortune fraction. What a unique idea… 

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We drown ourselves in this sea of our own insignificance that we forget that we don’t have to act like this: as if our existence is nothing more than the universe’s own cruel pastime. While it seems like we, as humans, lay waste to all that crosses our path, there’s no doubt that we were created for something greater, something beyond our futile attempts to find meaning in every bit of existential dread we immerse ourselves in. 

It’s so easy to feel unmotivated when you see all the utter garbage that plagues this world, but believe me when I say seeing people come together, boxing non-perishable food items for hours and hours on end, transporting them from shelter to shelter, home to home, I’m reminded the human race isn’t as useless as we appear on the daily. It’s even more encouraging when you realize it’s not just the people that stack boxes, call up food donation centers, and drive to and from houses, but hundreds of families, who, ordinarily, wouldn’t involve themselves in something like this, stop by to leave tens of hundreds of pounds food, just because the thought of helping a family in need, even if it was in the smallest way possible, gave them some hope. 

SewaDiwali is more than an initiative; it has spread like wildfire across hundreds of organizations, a symbol of goodwill and humanity, only because people who weren’t starving took the initiative to lift up those who were. 

So from one fortunate fraction to another, I suggest we hang up on those persistent thoughts pertaining to mind-numbing pessimism and check out this “bigger picture” thing that everyone’s been so worked up about, because the reality is that unless we take it upon ourselves to unite all that sails this vast ocean, we won’t even be able to leave a dent in this vicious storm. 

We’re not in the same boat. We all have our own distinct issues and obstacles, and to say that we’re all in the same boat is only an excuse to ignore all our problems. Though it seems like it, this hurricane that has blanketed our world is not going to magically go away come 2021. But through sheer determination, hope, and unity we can pull ourselves out of this storm, or at very least find a place of shelter: the eye of the hurricane. A place categorized by light winds, clear skies, and harmony. 

Anushka Patil is a ninth-grader at Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburg, PA. She enjoys writing poetry, short stories, and essays.

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  • Great article !! It puts a perspective on the pandemic, how some people are worse of than others. Those who are better off should do their bit to help the less fortunate ones. Thanks to Sewa Diwali for providing a platform to help the community !

  • Wow.. after reading this, I realized we are not on the same boat. Just questioning the global saying itself open up so many areas that need help and support. We can just hang on to the statement “we are on the same boat” thought or ask a question are we on the same boat?

    Thank you Anushka for such a great article.

    Sewa Diwali , Sewa Dharma

  • Lovely article Anushka. Simply summarised and beautifully explained. Loved ur perspective about living on the same boat.

    Nicely written. Hope to see many more

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