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  • Writer's pictureShawn Ullah

Seva : سیوا

Jessy Nerval : Edmonton, Alberta

We think that there's only a certain amount of people that are ‘us’, and that the rest are ‘them’. That in itself is the problem.

The best definition of Seva is selfless service. It’s a nuance, its not selfless, it never is. You may perceive it to be, but once you start doing the work, you start to realize that there is a lot to be gained from it in terms of perspective, gratitude, and inner peace. People tend to think of community work as a one way road, but when you start doing it, you realize it's very much a two way road. There is a lot to be gained from it, on a personal and emotional level.

Two years ago we were serving our meal program outside the Bissell Centre. We were just finishing up. I was folding up a table, and doing some of the clean up. An elderly indigenous fellow approached me and said, “I just wanted to swing by and let you know how much we appreciate what you guys do for us, it means a lot, how committed you guys are to the program, and to helping us”. I looked him in the eye and told him, “We do this work because we see you as a brother, you’re not a stranger to us. We genuinely care about you.” He looked down, and started to cry, then looked back up and said, “I love you so much”. I told him I loved him too, then later went home and cried as well.

It’s very easy for people to be negative towards indigenous folks, especially if they’re in abject conditions, but people need to understand that they’re human beings. As civilized as we think we are, we're very tribal, especially in the way we identify. We think that there's only a certain amount of people that are ‘us’, and that the rest are ‘them’. That in itself is the problem. I feel like until we begin to realize that there is no 'us', and no 'them', its just ‘we’, and that we're all people; until we start identifying as human beings on a global level, instead of our own quote-on-quote communities, until we start identifying with the greater community, we will always have prejudice, racism, and bigotry.

People always ask what the solution to poverty is, and how we can fix things. The first step is to care about the people, then the actions follow. The problem is that a lot of people will see a homeless individual and feel nothing. That is the first part of the problem.

(Jessy Nerval : Edmonton, Alberta)

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