The Sanskrit word seva is usually translated as “selfless service” – work performed without any thought of reward or repayment. It’s an important part of my practice both at the ashram and in my everyday life.  Every summer, the youth group at my former church goes on a work camp trip to perform service for those in need.  My older son went on several of these – to Mississippi to help with Hurricane Katrina cleanup, to the inner city of East St. Louis to work with underprivileged youth, to a reservation in South Dakota to help rebuild houses.  Through selfless service to others, these kids connect with people they don’t normally meet in the “Boulder Bubble” and learn something about themselves in the process.

Setup for “An afternoon with the bees”

These trips cost money though, and over the years there have been several different types of fundraisers to help these kids defray the costs.  In the past, I’ve donated beehive products (honey, lipbalm) for a silent auction (you wouldn’t believe what some people will pay for honey for a good cause!) and Diana has been a participant in an Iron Chef competition.  For the past couple of years, they’ve held “Pick-A-Party” events where someone will host an event that people pay to attend, with the money going to the youth work trip.  Last year, Diana hosted a Syrian-themed dinner because the kids were going to Seattle to work with Syrian refugees.  This year the kids will be learning about global hunger and sustainable food resources while working at the Heifer Project International in Arkansas.   Since our food security depends on pollinators, I decided to host an “Afternoon with the bees” to talk about why pollinators are important, the stresses that we are placing on them, and what we can do to help them out.

Pollinator protection handouts and native bee house

We had a small group, but they were all very engaged with what I was saying about bees and pollinators in general.  I discussed the plight of the pollinators – too many pesticides and reduced diversity of forage are decimating their populations.  I talked about what they can do in their own yards and with their own wallets – eliminate pesticide use, plant a diverse set of plants for pollinators to forage on, buy organics.  I explained the work I am doing with the People and Pollinators Action Network (PPAN) – educating people and creating pollinator safe neighborhoods and cities.  Two of the three households attending took our pollinator safe promise and the other is considering it!

Observation hive with Buddha and The Bees (Thanks, Faith!)

I set up my observation hive with some bees from the Left Hand Hive.  When I went to pick them up, I was expecting the Left Hand Hive to be brimming with bees based on what it looked like a month ago.  However, when I opened the hive, there weren’t as many bees as I expected and there were a bunch of dead and dying bees on the bottom board.  I think they may have gotten into some poison because the corn fields nearby had just been tilled and planted – presumably with pesticide coated seeds.  I’ll have to check back on them in a week to see if they are still alive.  But I was able to pull out the queen and some brood combs for the observation hive.   In just a couple of days, they started building new combs in the observation hive which was fun to watch.

We had a lively discussion about the role of agribusiness in pollinator declines – both from the production side (e.g., mono-culture planting, pesticide use) and from the commercial beekeeping side (e.g., trucking bees across the country for pollination, use of miticides and antibiotics in their hives).  A good question that one person asked is why doesn’t agribusiness realize that if they keep going this way, that it will affect their ability to grow food?  I wish I knew, but I’m sure it has something to do with making money now and let the future be damned.

Honey and cheese tasting

We had a honey (and cheese) tasting with some of my honeys and a special African honey that I found in my cupboard one day.  It must have come from my son since it was from Gonzaga University.  Diana and one of the attendees thought it tasted like port wine.

Zambia honey from Gonzaga U

I gave them a tour of my backyard bee hive (BnB1) and the Hello Kitty hive next door.  The weather wasn’t that warm, but the bees were flying and we took a quick peek through the observation windows.  I showed them the different equipment that beekeepers use – Langstroth and top bar hives, bee suits, smokers and hive tools.  At this time of year, my back porch is loaded with equipment.

Crushing up the combs

I showed them how I harvest honey using the crush and strain method.  I had several combs from my deadouts and live hives that needed culling so used those for the demonstration.  Some of the honey had crystallized, so the resulting honey was a bit cloudy, but from that one pot, I got 10 pounds of deliciousness.

Each attendee got a jar of honey and some lip balm just for attending, but we also set out some more items for sale with the proceeds also going to to the youth work camp.  We sold honey, lip balm, candles and some lotions that Diana has been making.

Buddha And The Bees Honey

Buddha And The Bees Candles

Diana’s lotions

All in all, it was a successful afternoon.  We raised some money to help the kids go on their seva trip and I got a chance to proselytize about bees.  Most of all, we had fun connecting around pollinators.

I found another translation of seva (although I can’t confirm it, but I like the idea), which says that “seva translates directly as “thread”, implying that all things are connected in the thread of existence. To engage with one is to engage with the whole. Likewise, to serve one is to serve the whole.”  

Spend some time in selfless service to others in any way you can.  The act is it’s own reward.



Joanne Graham · April 20, 2018 at 3:10 am

Don, you and Diana are such an inspiration. thanks for this post.

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