I spent my NYE in New Orleans with six of my best friends from high school. We went to a small boarding school (we graduated with a whopping total of 60 people) in Virginia and have remained close ever since. Some of us live in Maryland, VA and North Carolina, so when we’ve got the opportunity to travel and spend some time together we hop on it. This year that opportunity took us to Louisiana, for six days.
If you’ve never been to New Orleans, let me paint the scene for you. A non-stop party, with alcohol and large personalities flowing and bartenders not hesitating to hand you a to-go cup for your drink before you depart their bar for the next. New Orleans is beautiful, bright colors, large homes, winding streets and balconies on every house donned in Spanish moss and beads, creating the perfect mix of spiritual and creativity. For every piece of beauty New Orleans has however, it also holds a certain degree of eerie sadness.
The setting for Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans still holds the effects of the storm that ravaged the city a decade ago. If you leave the French Quarter you’re met with decrepit houses, ghost stories of those who never left the city during the storm and as a result made New Orleans their forever home. Homeless don the streets, often laying in an alley- seemingly succumbing to the life they’ve found themselves living and giving up the hope of a better future.
The odor of human waste is strong, something that takes some getting used to- reminding you even if you can’t see the people in need, and they’re all around you. On our last night in New Orleans the seven of us split up. Three went to a bar and the four of us were headed to a ghost tour. On the way we passed a young guy, somewhere in his twenties, reading a book on the street with a dog in his lap. He was wearing tattered clothes, was dirty, and had a sign lying in front of him that said, “a little kindness goes a long way.”
I’m not naïve, I’m used to seeing homeless in my own city and I understand that getting a dog when your homeless is a strategic move. Not only do more people feel badly for you, or more, the animal, but cops also are less likely to arrest a homeless person with a dog because they have nowhere to take it and don’t want to deal with the hassle.
Something about this particular guy though really stuck with me, and I was overcome with a need to help him. I asked my friends if they’d object to us stopping in a Walgreens and picking up some things for the guy and no one did and so there we found ourselves in Walgreens trying to figure out what he could use the most that they sold.
We were stopped by the manager, who realized what we were shopping for and came over to talk to us. He said there wasn’t a point in buying this man food because for every homeless person we help there are ten more who need something. He explained how most of the time the homeless are putting on a con, and to ignore them and not waste our money. Two of my friends backed out, agreeing with the manager and telling us they wouldn’t buy anything. The other two of us kept on, deciding con or not this would be our good deed for the day and leave it at that.
We decided on a small bag of dog food, a couple waters, and some food and snacks. We left Walgreens and walked back to the guy, calling out to him and interrupting him from his book. We handed the groceries to him and told him we tried to get some things we thought he might need and then we went on our way. Before we could go too far though, another man called out to us. Dressed in many layers, he was carrying a small rolling suitcase and two bags crossed around his chest. I immediately assumed we’d caught the attention of another homeless man and he also wanted us to buy him things.
A little annoyed, I began to steer the group down another street. Calling out to us again, the man quickly caught up to us and stopped us. Once we were up close, it was more apparent he wasn’t homeless- though we were still wary of his intentions with us.
He introduced himself as Drumila Dasa and works with Food For Life, a vegetarian spiritual food distribution, and had seen what we did so he stopped us to talk. His team alone feeds over 1,000 hot meals a week to those in need- this is made possible by donations he receives by soliciting people on the New Orleans streets.
Along with being devoted to helping Food For Life, this man is also a devoted follower of Krishna consciousness and has distributed spiritual masters books written by A.C. Bhakti Vedanta Swami since 1975. For those who aren’t familiar, Krishna consciousness means an awareness of and affection for the Supreme Person, Krishna. It is the culmination of all forms of yoga, knowledge, meditation and spirituality. Drumila is convinced that these books hold the answers for solving many of the world’s problems.
Drumila with some new friends in New Orleans
A.C. Bhakti Vedanta Swami witnessed children fighting with dogs in India over scraps of food in the 70’s. He sent out a memo to all of his temples saying that no one within a 10-mile radius of any of their temples would go hungry and thus, Food For Life began.
A fascinating man, Drumila (and Krishna consciousness) believes that helping others is a noble quest, but most people simply try to help the outward body or minds, which none of us are in actuality. In order to truly help another he believes you need to impart them with spiritual knowledge of their identity separate from the material body. This is showing true compassion, and will help someone continuously vs. just helping someone once and thinking their problems have been solved.
My friends and I after speaking with Drumila and recieving our new books!
After speaking to Drumila for twenty-plus minutes, each of my friends donated to Food For Life and took away with them a new meaning for helping others. They talked about how they felt guilty for not wanting to help the homeless man our age who was just asking for a little kindness. Drumila opened all of our eyes that night, and each of us left with new books written by A.C. Bhakti Vedanta Swami.
If you would like to find out more about Food For Life, you can check out their web page here:
|Sky Andersen holds down the role of blog writer at Yoga Accessories. Currently studying Public Relations at VCU, she writes for many different publications and is passionate about all things photography, travel and of course- yoga.|