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Karma Kitchen & The Pudding of Heaven

There were nine of you, fired up and ready to go when Viral and I arrived just after nine on Sunday. The largest set-up crew we've ever had, arguably the most sincere and most definitely the only crew that's arrived carrying its own meditation cushions :) We zipped through readying the space and settled into a circle of silence --- still strangers at this point (we hadn't done intros yet), but when we opened our eyes at the end of that period, a quiet bond had already been forged.

Susan set the tone for the day, sharing the story of her eighty-something year old mother in Alaska, who without a moments hesitation had gifted a small fortune so that a man on the street with frostbite could save his leg. Connecting that spirit of unconditional giving with Karma Kitchen she gave gratitude for the space. Over the next six hours we would each attempt to keep that flame of generosity burning bright.

Incidentally we broke an interesting KK record this Sunday  --- for the highest number of Stanford grad students serving tables, washing dishes, busing tables and plating food :) You guys rocked (thank you Somik for bringing in wuch a wonderful group!) And the stories that came from the day were special.

The Nicest Person I Meet
Gopal who saw a guest "doodling" on a piece of paper at her table, later discovered that doodle to be a flawless piece of art that she gifted to him. He decided to pay-it-forward, to a nine-year-old boy who was scribbling an uncomplimentary note at his table :)  "Look what he's writing," says his mother, "are you sure you want to give him this?" Replies Gopal, "I was just given this picture and decided I would give it away to the nicest person I met today. And yes I'd still like to give it to him." The child received the gift, quickly discarded his not-nice-note and substituted it with the more benign drawing of a ship :)

Pudding of Heaven
Earlier in the circle MJ talked of the power of transformation that comes alive at Karma Kitchen --- those moments come in surprisingly humble ways -- like Chinmay's experience with a guest who had repeatedly refused his offer of rice pudding and then shared with him the story of a saint in the marketplace who was handing out flowers to passerbys. As the story goes, people hurried past him, either too suspicious, arrogant or preoccupied to receive his offering. And as the story goes, if any man or woman had stopped that day to receive the unconditional gift in front of them, he or she would have entered the gates of heaven. "Your offers of pudding and my refusals remind me of this story," says the guest laughing. And now the Pudding of Heaven might just be the new name of our dessert and a great lesson in learning how to truly receive :)

The Tipping Point
So many other stories from the day. A table of four who come for the first time and are touched to discover that you can't tip your server at Karma Kitchen. Volunteers who slip into whatever role is needed of them, including making the naan (thank you MJ and Jazz!). Offerings of homemade Sauerkraut, homegrown oranges and a giant persimmon that appear on the Kindness Table, the serendipity of a volunteer who finds herself serving her grown up daughter's grade school music teacher, the unexpected delightof a first-time plater who served up a steady stream of dishes to reflect smilingly at the resulting feeling of glowing satisfaction, "as if I'd cooked the entire meal myself!" ...

Thank you all for your presence at Karma Kitchen this Sunday. It was a real joy to serve together and we hope to have you with us again on a future week.

--Viral and Pavi on Nov 17, 2009




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