by SS Siri Akal Singh Khalsa, Espanola NM
“What’s so funny?” my wife Hari asked, looking up from her book.
“I just got an e-mail inviting me to contribute to the next Sikh Dharma Ministry Newsletter,” I replied.
“And that’s funny because…?”
“…Because the editors are obviously thinking of someone else.”
“What do you mean? They invited you, didn’t they?”
“Yes, but we’ve been quarantined since March. I hardly go out, except to shop, and when I do, I’m all masked up and social-distancing from everybody. And even before the Coronavirus isolated us, ever since you were diagnosed with cancer four years ago, I’ve kept out of the mainstream. My priority became making sure that you didn’t get sick with some bug I brought home.”
“And that disqualifies you from writing a piece for the newsletter?” Hari asked.
“Well, yeah. Think about it. What is my ministry? I practice a ministry of one: you. That’s important to me, but why should it matter to anyone else?”
Hari leaned in: “You’ve always had a ministry of one. And it matters. You just don’t see it.” She paused. “Consider the ripple effect.”
“Ripple effect?” I asked.
Hari explained: “Remember how, last summer, one of your students from 40 years ago called to ask if you would be willing to Zoom with the “kids” you had taught? Thirty of them showed up on-screen to thank you for not settling for anything less than their best. Sure, you taught them English, but it was your quiet honoring of ‘God in everyone’ that allowed them to grow into successful human beings. Which they did.”
She continued: “How about when I was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer? You decided to retire from a job you loved, years before you planned to. You explained to your colleagues that you wanted to spend the time left with me. Your board chair told me that she had never experienced a moment of such love, sacrifice, and commitment. She said that your decision gave her—and many others—courage, and clarity of what is important in life.”
“And just this morning, it was snowing madly, but you were out before sunrise, filling the feeders. If they could, those hungry birds would be thanking you right now, for themselves and for the generations you helped save.”
I shrugged. “Just doing what was needed.”
“Exactly!” she answered. “As someone said, ‘We don’t know what life will bring, so it is what we bring to life that matters.’ Every day, you and your fellow Ministers do whatever you can to make things better for as many as you can, in your own small ways. It may not always feel like it, but it’s all God’s work.”
Hari went on, “The way I see it, your ministry of one is actually a Ministry of The One. Its ripple effects will always be greater than you imagine. Maybe greater than you can imagine.”
She smiled. “Just don’t let it go to your head.”
I smiled back. “I won’t. God, Guru—and you—will see to that.”
About the Author
SS Dr. Siri Akal Singh Khalsa started his journey as a Sikh when he moved into the Brooklyn ashram in 1976. He took Sikh vows two years later and married Hari Kaur at Winter Solstice in 1980. They were both ordained as Sikh Dharma Ministers in 1985, serving the Dharma ever since in a variety of ways. A lifetime educator, Siri Akal holds three masters’ degrees and a doctorate. Over a fifty-year career in education, he has held positions ranging from teacher to vice-principal to head of school, school president, a trustee on the boards of regional and national school associations, and trustee and the board chair of Miri Piri Academy. In 2019, he retired as executive director of the Northwest Association of Independent Schools to join Hari in Espanola, where he nurtures tranquility by gardening and tending to the wild birds, stays professionally sharp by providing executive coaching to non-profit leaders and their boards, and maintains good health by cycling–and keeping a lid on his stuffed sopaipilla intake.