Producing Amma’s New Mexico program requires thousands of hours of seva in many departments. This year I was once again doing the kitchen laundry. This requires loading several bags of damp aprons, rags, and chef’s coats used by the kitchen staff while preparing and serving meals, and driving to the nearest local laundromat. Fortunately, in the USA, there are many convenient and large laundromats . However, all the nearest ones had already been commandeered by the people washing 35 loads of staff laundry. So I drove to the far end of the town of Espanola, one of the earliest Spanish settlements in the USA. Today it is famous for “low rider” cars, traffic jams on the main street through the town, spectacular mountain views to enjoy while sitting in traffic and some excellent restaurants serving New Mexican cuisine.
I arrived at long, low building with tan peeling paint and sign proclaiming it as the Pinch Penny Laundromat. However, pennies wouldn’t do and I was equipped with rolls of quarters for 5 triple load washers and 8 single loads that I required. I wheeled in bag after bag of laundry and began adding soap, loading laundry and feeding the machines coins. I was obviously a stranger in town with a lot of laundry and everyone was friendly and helpful. I explained about Amma and that night’s free program, gave directions and evoked some interest in attending.
After a few hours, I was making good progress on my mission when I discovered that the apron strings had not been tied in two 40 pound loads of laundry. They were “Gorgon” knots and onlookers made sympathetic noises and made guesses of how much time it would take to undo them. They suggested I take them “home” and work on them. I considered where in the very fancy hotel, where we were trying to make a good first time impression, I might do this, as a thousand and more people were already converging on the Buffalo Thunder ballroom.
Then, an employee of the laundromat started working on the mass of tangled strings. Another woman who was waiting for her laundry to finish washing also pitched in. I continued moving wet laundry to dryers, and folding dry laundry and putting it in bags. After about 20 minutes the duo had untied the knotted mass. I was so grateful, as I was totally exhausted, though pleased with the piles of fresh aprons for staff and sevites.
I thanked them again and again and told them they had no idea how much this meant to me. New Mexico is often called the melting pot of 3 cultures, Spanish, Anglo (“English”) and Native American. But often, it is more like a stew, where the groups float around in the same pot, but don’t always have much to do with each other. Espanola happens to be a place where Spanish and Native Americans and Anglos fought bitterly historically. But everyone at the Laundromat seemed to feel a rare camaraderie. Why write a blog about a trip to the laundromat? I thought how Amma mentions in almost every satsang, the importance of a simple smile and small acts of kindness. She stressed this again in her Conversation on Compassion at Stanford University just a few days ago.
I had the perfect example with my apron strings. This was not an earthshaking event. But for me it was huge to have strangers volunteer for the unappealing job of painstakingly unsnarling incredibly twisted strings. The friendliness of the other customers also soothed my soul after a congested drive and hours in a hot building. I drove back to Buffalo Thunder feeling tired, but happy. Doing the kitchen laundry had turned into a beautiful cross-cultural experience which reinforced Amma’s teachings.
Back at the venue the sun was turning the hills around the hotel to gold and a few puffy white clouds reflected a rosy glow. The parking lot was packed as the diverse crowd arrived. Amma programs attract all ages, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. The staff that travels with Amma to produce the programs comes literally from all over the world. Her pure love overcomes all differences and our unified colors become like that rainbow Amma often mentions- giving beauty and happiness to all.
Yatra USA 2014