On a beautiful Saturday morning in Union Square, greater Boston Sikhs passed out free, iced, bottled water. It was cinematic: Turbaned men of all ages, women and children in colorful, flowing robes stood at every intersection—three very busy streets flow in and out of the Square—and, reaching into plastic trash cans filled with ice, handed wet bottles sparkling in the June sunlight to anyone who wanted one.
Although this water freebee actually commemorates the martyrdom of a 17th century Sikh guru, Arjan Dev Ji, a present-day Sikh leader, Satvir Kaur, gives this explanation: [“Passing out free water] gives back to the community and raises awareness of the Sikh faith.”
Exactly. Indeed, when I asked the young Sikh mother offering me water why she was doing so, she handed me a pamphlet which, in maybe the third or fourth paragraph, made this point: Sikhs are not Muslims. Gently, in other words. Subtly. But clear.
A member of another misunderstood sect, on Saturday my mind immediately went to: “What could Quakers pass out gratis to give back to the community and raise awareness?” (Not bottled water, I would imagine!)
But on Sunday at meeting for worship I thought about the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. And about the open and generous gift of iced water on a hot summer day. And how, within all of us, love, Light, compassion can well up.