The Rich Vegetarian

An Examined Life

Menu Close

Tag: service

Most Burdensome of All

I have a friend who keeps his car stocked with water, fruit and snacks, so he can hand them out to homeless people on his way to work. One day, he gave a bottle of water to a homeless man. The guy looked at him askance, as if asking, c’mon, this is all you can give me? He took the water and walked away.

As he related the incident, my friend laughed. “You cannot expect gratitude even from a homeless man.”

My friend is a wise and compassionate guy, and I like to think he was half-joking when he said what he did.

It is truly burdensome to believe that you (or I) did a good deed, performed an act of kindness. There is a kind of oppressive weight to the idea and thought of it. In fact, I find it highly patronizing.

Service is a pure (perhaps the purest) form of self-expression. Millions of people perform acts of service on a daily basis without likely even being aware of it. They act on a whim, in a moment of complete spontaneity, responding to a need from someone somewhere. It takes an instant, the act is done, and everyone is off to their respective places.

It leaves everyone free: giver, receiver, bystanders.

I cringe a little when I hear well-meaning parents and teachers encouraging kids to think about “others,” “do something for others,” and so on.

So long as you think that you are doing something for others, you are going to be bound to the act, harbor a sense of expectation, even anticipate gratitude. I’d really like to walk away from it, be free of the typical trappings that come with “doing a good deed.”

Perhaps this comes across as fake modesty but it’s a little more than that.

It stems from a simple desire for freedom. To be released from expectation (of gratitude or whatever), to be free of the burdensome notion “I am helping another,” to be free of this terribly grand picture of self.

Interview with Sucheta Rawal, Founder of Go Eat Give

Go Eat Give is a non-profit organization based in Atlanta that connects three favorite interests of people: traveling, food and volunteering. When I first heard of Go Eat Give, I marveled at the ingenuity of the founder Sucheta Rawal who had alighted on this winning combination. I wonder if a better way exists that can bring people together in a spirit of service, curiosity and adventure. Also, my inner wordsmith loves Go Eat Give’s tagline – Connecting People, Places and Palates!

Sucheta is an avid traveler herself who dreams of visiting every country on the planet. She is also an accomplished cook who holds classes and demonstrations around Atlanta. Here is her story.

Sucheta Rawal, Spain

Sucheta Rawal, Spain

When and how did you get bitten by the travel bug?
My first international trip was to USA when I was 16. Up until I graduated with my masters and started working, I really did not have any money to travel. But once I was earning a decent living at an investment bank, I started taking 4 big trips every year. The more I traveled, the more I got addicted to it. The bug of seeing the whole world bit me about 8 years ago!

Love the concept of combining volunteerism, traveling and food! How did you hit on this deadly combination? 🙂
After visiting 30 countries for leisure, I felt the experience was getting rather repetitive. I would stay in a hotel, eat at restaurants recommended by guide books & get photos of attractions that everyone else had. Even the souvenirs began to look all the same! I chanced upon an organization that offered volunteer vacation packages & went with them to Russia & Morocco. I loved the fact that I got to eat home cooked meals, interacted with the locals, learned so much about the culture & also gave back to the community. I have always been involved in community service all my life, and writing about food & teaching cooking classes since 2003. All those 3 aspects – travel, food & service were so close to my heart, the combination seemed very natural.

Tough question coming up… What are the top 3 favorite places you have visited?
Yes, that’s tough, like having to choose your favorite kid! I love the rich art, culture and architecture of Vienna; the never ending bazaars in Morocco; and the unbelievable landscapes of Iceland.

Friends Abroad!

Friends Abroad!

Can you share a memorable experience from a trip abroad?

There are so many! Last year when visiting Rio de Janeiro, I stayed with a Brazilian lady (a complete stranger) at her home. She was extremely sweet and showed me her favorite spots in the city from beaches and rain forests to neighborhoods and restaurants. She drove me around town and even introduced me to her friends. We became very close and still talk regularly. I will never forget her kindness and sweet smile. I plan to visit her again this year.

So many trips, a long list of countries… what are the lessons you have brought home to yourself?
The biggest lesson I have learned is that no matter what the race, religion or belief, people everywhere are generally very nice. I have learned to put prejudices and stereotypes away and accept the differences among cultures. I have also first hand witnessed how people live and how little they can get by with, which has helped me appreciate everything I have. When you see people in the poorest of conditions being calm and happy all the time, you realize what is really important in life.

Around the World with Go Eat Give

Around the World with Go Eat Give

What are your favorite foods?
I love to try ethnic foods. Anything made using fresh ingredients where you can still taste the real food is very appealing to me. However, if I was stranded on an island, I could live on wine, bread and chocolate. I can never resist a good gelato!

Can you share a favorite recipe?
Here is the easiest molten chocolate cake aka chocolate soufflé I have made. When I want to spend little time in the kitchen & yet wow my guests, I make this recipe. See Easter Chocolate Leftovers.