Five Bucks Club

March 31, 2006

Dear Friends,

I'm sure all of you know Jayeshbhai Patel from the Gandhi Ashram.

He's an every-moment hero like none other. Once at a busy Ahmedabad intersection red-light, he rolls down his window to call out a young beggar: "Come here, come here. Feel this cool air-conditioned air before the light turns green." Soon enough, all the kids are huddled around his car ... turning their have-pity-on-me facades into radiant smiles of joy. Such stories are part of his routine day. He will treat the cleaning lady like his mom, he will invite the rickshaw-wala into his own home for a glass of buttermilk, he will share a joke with the vegetable seller, he will cut nails of an old beggar, he will tickle a hungry 2 year old child sitting on the sidewalk. For Jayeshbhai, everyone is a reflection of his own being. One time, a brawl was about to ensue between two truck drivers who had gotten into an accident; Jayeshbhai gets out of his car, fights his way through the crowd of onlookers, puts his left hand on one driver's heart and the right hand on the other driver's heart, and conveys his trademark "heart to heart" message in simple language. Power of his compassion immediately snapped that fight into an experiment of love. Those drivers departed without fighting.

I don't need to tell you more stories. You go to the Ahmedabad slums and people bow down to him as if he's their savior; when he visits Kutch, people walk couple days just to get a blessing from him; if you've spent even just an hour with him, you intuitively feel the power of this every-moment hero.

Couple weeks ago, when I was with Jayeshbhai, I had a random idea -- why not have a fund from which he can do these small acts of spontaneous kindness? While most folks look for opportunities to give, service comes knocking on Jayeshbhai's doors everyday. And what an opportunity to be able to partake in that, in some small way! Every month, we would arrange to drop off the money anonymously, with a note of explanation, and perhaps ask him to write us his stories via snail-mail (which he's already started doing). I know he'd be touched by the small gesture and in turn that joy would overflow into his work.

So, that idea starts today. Here's the deal -- those interested will contribute $5/month. No more, no less. Minimum 12 month commitment. I'll get the money to Jayeshbhai anonymously, and hope to relay some of his soul-shaking stories to you through the online diary.

I've signed up as volunteer #1 for this five-dollar club.

Incidentally, it was on this day last year that Guri and I started our walking pilgrimage. And incidentally, it was Jayeshbhai who walked the first kilometer with us, prayed with us at the Gandhi Ashram at 5:30AM, and bid us farewell as we embarked into the unknown.

In the spirit of service,


P.S. To stay true to the spirit of the project, please don't tell Jayeshbhai about my association with this. And there is no way he is going to get on the Internet to find this page. :)