Help Should Be Individual

[Listen to Asha read this story]

Ananda is an ashram. We don’t advertise to find the most qualified people for the jobs that have to be done. We welcome devotees and find a way for them to serve. We do the best we can with whomever God sends. “People are more important than things,” is one of the principles Swamiji has taught us.

One of the gardeners was having difficulty with some of those whom God had sent. Late in the autumn, she said to Swamiji, “We have to get the crops in before the freeze comes, or months of work will turn into compost overnight. There’s no margin. People’s souls may be more important than things, but aren’t some things more important than people’s egos?”

Swamiji laughed. “Yes, of course they are! But look to your own motivation. For you, that is a more important consideration even than the crops. Before you challenge others, discriminate carefully—for your own sake. Be sure you are differentiating between the demands of your ego and the well-being of your soul.

“What you say to others, when your own motives are clear, will show respect for them as people. When your own attitude is right, you will say to them, 'This is what we must do,' not, 'This is what you must do.'

“Circumstances often drive us in directions we’d rather not go. Sometimes we have to be pushed hard to see which way we’ll break. How people respond, however, must be left to their free will.”

A woman was supposed to be working as my assistant, but her moods made her so unreliable it was like not having an assistant an all. I appealed to Swamiji for help.

“She is full of reasons why she can’t do the work I give her. What is my responsibility to her?” I asked him.

“She hasn’t yet committed to this spiritual path,” he said. “It will be a victory for her if she does, but she is still making up her mind. We should help her if we can, but we don’t have an obligation to her. If you feel to speak frankly, go ahead. She needs to see this path for what it is.”

At first, the woman rose to the challenge. In the end, however, Ananda was more than she’d bargained for and she left. Swamiji said, “For her sake I am sad that she wasn’t able to stay.”

A few years later I had another assistant with a similar temperament. I sensed, however, that her case was different. Again, I appealed to Swamiji.

“If I speak frankly, I think she’ll quit, and will probably leave Ananda,” I said to him. “Should I risk it?”

“No,” replied Swamiji. “She isn’t mature enough to respond in the right way. She isn’t ready to meet your needs, or even the needs of the work. Still, you have to accommodate her because she belongs here. She is part of our spiritual family. The work she does is less important than keeping her in this positive environment so she can grow spiritually.”

I found a way to work with her, and, as Swamiji predicted, Ananda has been of great help to her spiritually.

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