KP Singh with Denver’s Sikh Gurudwara is spending much of his time at home with a headset on. He speaks on the phone with people who are searching for things like groceries and other goods.
“Some people (need) medical equipment,” he said. “Some lady actually called us that she had to go to a food bank so we had to arrange an Uber drive for her.”
Normally the Gurudwara, a Sikh house of worship, has a community kitchen. Once a week they cook and make a big meal they serve to anyone who comes, not just Sikhs. It’s called the Langar and it’s one way Singh likes to give back to the less fortunate.
But they can’t do that anymore. The new coronavirus has caused widespread closures, forcing all religions, including Sikhs, to re-think their traditions.
“Now the question becomes how do you take care of community in a world where you can’t go out to meet with community because of pandemic response?” said Dilpreet Jammu, president of the nonprofit Colorado Sikhs.
In the age of social distancing, Colorado Sikhs have reinvented the idea of the Langar and can now provide people nutritious food more than just once a week.
Singh has led the initiative from his home office. People have called to ask for all sorts of things. He has coordinated Amazon and King Soopers’ orders and has even found transportation for people.
“Now it is anything. I mean as simple as toilet paper,” Singh said. He added that he gets about five requests a day. Sometimes they're from people who need emotional support and just want to hear another voice.
“One example, in the beginning, the lady said, ‘I am not asking for anything financially so don't worry, but I do want to talk about this whole thing that you are doing.’ And she went on and on and on and on. So it's OK, right? That is another thing I could help.”
Even though some of the requests are complicated, Singh doesn’t mind because he enjoys helping others. He said sharing is one of the principles of Sikhism.
“Another thing that helps our community is a phrase called a chardi kala. And that translates to always rising, always uplifting,” said Jammu, with Colorado Sikhs. “So not only uplifting your own spirits but uplifting the spirits of others around you.”
Colorado Sikhs are helping uplift their community in states like Kansas, too, where they hope to replicate this new approach to Langar and shared meals.