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Building and Breaking

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I have always enjoyed putting things together and taking things apart. My father caught on to this early in my childhood, and encouraged me to dismantle clocks, hairdryers, radios and anything else I could get my hands on, to see how they worked, to channel my childish curiosity into mechanical understanding. My mother didn’t approve, seeing how they were her clocks, hairdryers and radios I was taking apart, and pushed me in the other direction – to build, to put things together and improve our lives. So she bought me Lego sets and wooden blocks, watching my imagination take them into new shapes, new structures. As I got older, I became the family handyman, not because I had a talent for construction, but because I was the only one who liked assembling Ikea furniture.

At Radha Madhav Dham, I love no seva better than making useful items for the temple. In our endless mission of organization, the ashram purchased four rolling metal shelves, and I jumped at the chance to lead the assembly team. Snapping the plastic locks into place, sliding the shelves onto their supports, carrying them into the basement, the barn, wherever they were needed made me felt like I was needed, like I was useful. The things I build in the service of Radha Rani have a function, a role to play, a chance to serve the ashram. In their construction, I hope I find a place, too.

With Holi, one of our biggest celebrations of the year, just around the corner, I am striving to find new ways to make myself useful. As always, I am one of the volunteers coordinating the kids’ games area. In addition to our usual carnival games of ring toss, cornhole and heart darts, I decided to build a new game, an old festival favorite called ‘Plinko.’ I took a trip to Home Depot and returned with some scrap wood, bolts and a peg board. The game is simple – you drop a token at the top of the board, it slides and bounces off the bolts in the peg holes, and ends up in a certain slot at the bottom – but the construction, the decoration, the design is what is challenging, what is engaging, what is fun. At least, for me.

The end result is rather simplistic. Gold paint, silver screws, a white background and a laminated paper sign is as fancy as I can make it with the time that I had. It may not be the most durable of our games, nor our most popular, but it has a certain appeal of its own – the flash of the tokens as they tumble downwards, the clink of the bolts as they are struck, the suspense of not knowing which slot the token will fall into. For me, the pleasure is in what I can give to the temple, even in something so simple. Maharajji tells us that God will accept even a leaf from us if it is offered wholeheartedly. As I labor externally for my beloved Shyama Shyam, my inner word is to purify my heart.

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