In America it is customary to have birthday celebrations. These celebrations often come in the form of a lavish party or expensive dinner with friends and family followed with presents. While spending time with friends and family is important, IBS has enabled those interested, to spend their birthdays in a more meaningful way; through the IBS Homeless Program. Instead of spending money on a fancy dinner or party, one can donate money to the program which will help feed very poor people living on the streets in India or purchase vegetarian pizzas to serve the hungry here in the United States. Currently the IBS Homeless Program feeds those experiencing homelessness in 5 different cities, and thanks to generous people who have chosen to celebrate their birthdays in this manner, thousands of people have been fed.
Have you ever experienced hunger? I’m not talking about the hunger you may feel in between meals; I’m talking about the hunger one experiences for days upon days without a meal. Fortunately, for most of us, we do not know what that is like. Do you know it doesn’t take much for a person to become homeless? One or several factors may result in a person living on the streets: mental or physical illness, no family, divorce, loss of your job, addiction, car accident, injury, depression and the list goes on. We don’t care why or which factors caused people to be homeless; we just help and ask no questions. This is compassion through action. One of my favorite quotes is by John Bunyan, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” There is something fulfilling about helping a person that can never return the favor. You never know if one day you’ll need this kind of help.
Though our purpose is to provide food and nourishment for those without, it is my belief that we provide much more than that: we provide compassion, love and an ear for those who most people ignore. Those living on the streets have been forgotten, given up on and most people do not acknowledge their existence. My heart fills with joy as I see how happy people are to have something to eat; something most of us take for granted. In addition to serving pizzas and water, we often distribute clothing, shoes and during the winter months, blankets, sleeping bags, gloves, scarves and beanies.
Can you imagine spending your birthday in a more meaningful way than helping those who are hungry and forgotten about? As Venerable Xianzhong says, “The blessing of generosity is the best birthday wish.”
May all sentient beings be free from cold, hunger and homelessness.