Meeting people halfway:
Devotion is where you find it

by Dhira-lalita das
Posted May 23, 2003

I recently had a work experience that caused me to challenge myself and my attitude towards other human beings. I would like to share this experience with fellow devotees, and welcome your comments.

I presently work as a staff nurse in a specialist day service for people with profound learning difficulties. Recently a member of staff retired and we were invited to her house for a leaving party. She is a Punjabi lady, and plenty of Punjabi food was on offer. It was vegetarian, and cooked without onion, garlic, mushrooms. Her family appeared very keen that I ate lots, and made me very comfortable. I am used to Asian hospitality, but this was different and much more welcoming than usual.

Over the past year we had had many talks about religion and faith. This lady was very devoted to her religion, and we had become friends. She is a Muslim lady, and I could see her faith and devotion was very strong. This caused some challenge to me, because I realised her faith and commitment easily surpassed mine, but often devotees claim to have the ultimate in devotion.

Yet here was a person following Islam and I would feel inspired by her strength. We talked about my experiences in Vrndavan and Mayapur and she would listen. She would talk about her travels to Mecca and I felt inspired.

I still had barriers in place, coming from thinking I was a devotee and we had the monopoly on devotion. Once I realised this, I was in a position to help her.

There were often difficulties with staffing our unit around lunchtimes. As a staff nurse I would not always get involved with lunchtime unless we were short staffed. However, she needed to carry out mid-day prayers and was unable to do so. During the last Ramadan fast and on Fridays I would cover her role as far as I could. It was only a short time each day, from my point of view, and I was often in a similar position with mid-day Gayatri.

She had never made a fuss, in fact if she thought others saw her as getting preferential treatment she would not accept my offer. But what I saw as a small act, of helping someone with such devotion carry out daily prayers, had a huge impact on her. This is why I was received so well by her family, who had gone out of their way to cater for my diet.

It was an experience I shall carry with me always.