YKG DMV: Little Friends For Peace
I observe countless empty alcohol bottles on the street corners. This seems to be too much for my 13 year old eyes to see. The location is a run down spot in Washington D.C. You may ask what am I doing here? I was thinking the same exact thing to myself. It is apparent that someone had a great Saturday night party. This is not like your usual party scene one would imagine or has seen in the movies. Something is quite dark about this scene in front of me, though it is a bright sunny day.
Somehow my eyes caught the attention of this kid hiding behind the tree playing hide and go seek with me. It is a stranger to me. Yet, I can’t ignore this magnetic attraction I feel with this little boy drawing me to him. I go approach him and say hello. His name is Steven. I say I am Ishar. He is extremely friendly, with a smile that is brighter than a rainbow. He is fragile. Nonetheless, one can’t deny the tiger spirit that I feel he exudes. He holds my hand and leads me towards this townhouse.
This is a communal townhome for multiple children to come to after school. I am slighted by the initial smell that my senses find hard to overcome. Curiosity killed the cat. I climb up to the second floor. The stairs are making noise. The noise that makes you be fearful that the whole floor may cave in. I am not alone. There are 20 other people in this one tiny bedroom, surrounding this one shadow. This is not a small shadow. This lady that we are engaging with is called Mama Joyce.
She is a big person who is mobile via a wheelchair; she has an even bigger heart full of pure love and joy. Mama Joyce has one job. A job that no one can do but her. A selfless job that she doesn’t get paid for. She has been doing this for the last 35 years. She has lived her whole life in this underprivileged neighborhood of Washington D.C. On a daily basis, about 40 young kids and teens stop by to say hello to her during the after school hours. She makes sure they are all on top of their school work. She is their fierce leader, their advocate, their parent, their confidant, and their rock. Her care for them has never been compromised no matter what her medical condition was. She has lived through so much personal pain, that she has nothing but strength to radiate. We heard her loud and proud. I listened to how she became involved with these kids. That day, after meeting her, I understood what responsibility was. She was responsible for these kids come what may.
My peers were taken back from all the experiences shared in the room. The camaraderie was intense. Our group is called Young Khalsa Girls (YKG). We were visiting Little Friends for Peace (LFFP) that day to make friendships with people outside our daily visible world. This is group started when we were 10 years old with a sole purpose of making the world better around us. We are led by five principles: Honesty, Courage, Sewa (selfless volunteer work), Humility and Unity. We interact intimately with the community around us on a monthly basis, and this was one of our volunteer missions.
Soon after, we moved away from the townhouse to a nearby ‘after school program’ where we interacted, played games, and had breakfast with 20 underprivileged and ‘at risk’ kids and teens. Their parents are incarcerated, thus these children are at risk for gang recruitment, gang violence, homelessness, dropout from school and many other such devastating occurrences.
That day, through Mama Joyce, I learned what I too am responsible for in this life. Regardless of limiting resources, you show up and grow up. That lesson has changed my life. No matter the circumstances, you put your best foot forward and live for others. Happiness exist in helping others, and is irrelevant of materialistic things. At the next visit I went there alone with my parents to meet the usual group. It was traumatic to hear that Mama Joyce was no more. She passed away few months ago. This broke my heart. But it will never break my spirit of selfless service to others.