The 40 Foot Container
Chapter 1 - Serving Charity and C4C
I was in Grade 4,
attending the Sathya Sai
School of Canada when Children 4 Charity was created. The founder of Serving
Charity, my dear friend ABBAS Jahangiri, arranged quarterly
field trips for students, grades 3 through 6, to experience the beautiful thing
we call 'charity'. Half of the students were assembling sandwiches in the Soup
Kitchen situated in the lower portion of the el Mocambo
for the first half of the day. The other half were being taught how to dance by
professionals, and entertained by the incredible blind pianist, Mr. Solomon.
Students would then gather for lunch, and then alternate. At lunch time we
would pray as a group, and then eat as many pizza slices as we could because it
seemed that ABBAS provided an endless supply. It was such a breath-taking
experience. ABBAS made us laugh, and occasionally threw out a few breakdancing
moves. More importantly, ABBAS, along with God's grace, showed us the true meaning
As you read my story you will find out more about those sandwiches we prepared and the importance of them. After each trip, ABBAS gave all students treats. We were all so happy to go to the Elmo. Simply writing about it brings a smile to my face. The energy in the school bus at the beginning of the day was completely different than the energy on the way back. We were all filled with joy and excitement.
It was beautiful.
Chapter 2 - C4C and KSN
As we visited ABBAS more, things became more interesting. ABBAS organized a competitive photography assignment among all the students and provided them all with disposable cameras to complete it. He also integrated a special program for all of us to take part in. It was called KSN. ABBAS would invite a class of Kids with Special Needs to the Elmo to interact with us. We taught them how to create an assembly line to make the sandwich assembly process more efficient. We joked with them, we laughed with them... They were all so cheerful. They were amazing. I particularly remember one boy - I think his name was Jonathan. He was so funny. He would constantly crack jokes and swing his arms around while laughing hysterically. He was such a happy person - rarely have I come across someone like him. C4C and KSN was a fantastic project. Not only were we doing charity, but also bringing the element of charity into the lives of others. We were paying it forward by teaching how to pay it forward. To teach someone the importance of selflessness is a gift like no other and that's what made the project so special. Kids helping kids helping people.
Chapter 3 - Serving Charity 2 AM
This is one of the most important chapters in my life - the chapter that helped influence me to become the person I am today. 2 AM was a very special time in ABBAS' life. It was the time that Viktor began loading ABBAS' yellow Hummer with Parle-G cookies, canisters of hot tea, blankets, gloves, hats, and the sandwiches that C4C occasionally prepared. It was the time when the Elmo closed and ABBAS prepared to make a difference in the lives of many people. These were people who lost everything - their homes, their wealth and often themselves. These people were homeless. It was in 2007 when I heard about a man who would go out, every single night, and help the homeless people of downtown Toronto. My beautiful mother dragged my brother and I at 2 AM one night, to go meet that man. My brother and I were hesitant because we didn't understand the importance of charity yet. We thought sleep was so valuable that we had no good reason to sacrifice it. Little did we know, we were about to have such a beautiful impact on the lives of many, ours included. The three of us were greeted kindly, and shortly after, challenged to a game of foosball. My brother and I quickly learned that being too confident is not a good thing. We then got into the Hummer and drove off, unsure of where we were going. We fed so many people that night. We made sure so many people were warm that night. We offered our friendship to so many people that night. We made so many people feel loved that night. I remember so many happy faces. I could never understand how someone with so little, could have so much. A few of the people we met laughed with us. A few shared life stories. One man recited a poem he had written for ABBAS. I could tell the relationship ABBAS had with these people was very strong. It was built on trust, love, and humility. They were so thankful of his good deeds that it reflected in the way they spoke to him. "God Bless You" and "I Love You" was common.
It was beautiful.
At 9 years old, I didn't understand what those words meant. I couldn't understand how to love a stranger. Sometimes life will guide you in the direction of understanding and only time will grant you that understanding.
Chapter 4 - Serving Charity Church Grand Bend
I lost communication with ABBAS growing up. I was too distracted by friends, school, and video games. I started working full time so my daily schedule consisted of going to the gym, going to work, and then sleeping. Life felt very normal at the time. I lived just like the majority, and that was the problem. I wanted to do something special again. I wanted to help someone out. I wanted to get that same feeling that I got when at 2 AM, I wrapped a blanket around a homeless person who was cold. I knew ABBAS' life revolved around charity, so I decided to call him. He told me to meet him at his place and from there we would go to Grand Bend. What that meant, I had no clue. It was a three hour trip, which of course I don't remember because I love to sleep. We arrived at a church. It read "Carmel Presbyterian Church" but I was told it was now called the "Serving Charity Church". The building is massive. As you enter, there is a staircase on each side, which leads to the nave. When I entered the all I saw was stuff! Carpets, furniture, pictures, building supplies, tools, you name it. I remember thinking, "How was any of this related to charity?" I slowly learned about the Haiti project. ABBAS was going to fill a 40 foot container with all this stuff and deliver it to the poorest of the poor in Haiti. This was exactly what I wanted to be a part of.
Grand Bend was about to be my second home.
Chapter 5 - Sathya Sai School Donations
The Haiti project reminded me of the beautiful things we used to do. It awakened something inside of me. I can't explain it. I see a beggar and I immediately go get them a coffee. I see someone who is struggling and I immediately help them out. I decided that I wanted to have a larger role in the project. I went to my Elementary school, the Sathya Sai School, and spoke to grades 1 through 8 about the project. I explained to the kids that their clothes, alone, amount to more than what many of the children in Haiti have. Some of the children don't even know what toys are due to such devastating poverty. I told the kids that their homework is to donate any clothes, toys, pillows, blankets, books, etc... And that their homework is optional. I explained that helping people out is a very beautiful thing. It provides you with a satisfaction like no other. It brings goodness into your heart. I asked each class if I can count on them and they all said yes. In two days, we collected 4 boxes of clothes, toys, and books, a bag of baby food, a bag of mugs, and a box of brand new mugs. I was so pleased with the work of these students. I was even more pleased that the younger students contributed more. There was so much love and excitement in these students. They wanted to make a difference.
I felt it.
Chapter 6 - The First Half
Viktor and I met ABBAS at his storage downtown. As usual, I didn't know what the plan was. I was very curious as to how our day was going to go but I didn't bother asking because ABBAS doesn't like unnecessary questions. He taught me that obedience is a stepping stone to building a strong character. He explains that some questions can be answered simply by waiting. The three of us started moving boxes of ABBAS' donations towards the staircase of the underground storage unit. We moved about half of the boxes when strange faces appeared. A short, muscular man with the body of a strongman was followed by a tall man with a similar build who was covered in tattoos. These guys were huge! Then came another man, with the same build as the short man, followed by his son, and the son of the first man. I was quick to judge and thought that I wouldn't get along with them. Boy was I wrong... The five gypsy guys, who happened to be ABBAS' good friends, were some of the warmest people I have ever met. I remember hearing "Filipo!" being shouted out, and then laughter. I remember being passed a box and hearing the word "heavy" and then laughter once I realized it weighed no more than a feather. I learned to never judge a person by their appearance. Judgment will change your outlook on people. We worked so efficiently, that it only took us 2 hours to bring ABBAS' whole storage from the basement, past a narrow staircase and onto the sidewalk. Bringing the piano up the stairs was difficult and seemingly impossible. However, a combination of manpower and ABBAS' intellect made it possible. ABBAS drilled a couple of 2x4s into the staircase so we could slide the piano up rather than lift it. It was still challenging to move, but we managed to do it. We had four guys at the bottom pushing, and ABBAS and another pulling at the top. I was pulling on both their jackets so they could maximize their strength while pulling. ABBAS asked me to get pizza for all of us because he knew our energy was getting low. He gave me $60 and told me to get eight slices, and I did. I got a large sized pizza cut into eight slices, for eight guys who could easily eat a large pizza alone. Cautious to handle someone else's money, I thought what I did was okay. I didn't know ABBAS was providing a meal for everyone. I didn't know people could be so kind. What I forgot was that ABBAS is more than just a person. He feeds me every single time I see him and I am fully capable of buying my own food. I should've known that this was a mistake and remembered that the Gypsy guys didn't bring a lunch with them. ABBAS later explained to me that the pizza was so much more than just a pizza. It was the backbone of all of our hard work. He was disappointed that I didn't think technically. As we were waiting for the container, there was so much stuff on the sidewalk that passers-by thought that a store was having a clear-out event. The container arrived around 7 PM. However, the driver had to make a U-turn with a 40 foot container attached to his tractor. Viktor and I had to stop traffic while the driver reversed the trailer into the perpendicular street, and turned. When the driver opened the doors of the container, I was shocked to find out the size of it. The lighter guys climbed into the trailer while the big guys passed us the donations. We had to bring everything to the back of the container, and organize it as fast as possible with the help of 2 more people who arrived halfway through the process. I remember looking out of the container, seeing ABBAS' Gangish Khan Statue covered in snow, and thinking, "Wow. This is beautiful." All the Gypsy guys cheered and wished each other an early Merry Christmas. We all exchanged smiles and goodbyes and then ABBAS and I were off to Grand Bend.
I was so happy to work with everyone and to see their personalities shine.
Chapter 7 - The Second Half
About 10 minutes after getting on the 401, it started to snow... A lot. The snowstorm was so extreme that we counted a total of five cars in ditches from Toronto to Hensall. There was no salt on the roads so, after some time, the snow froze and created a layer of ice on the ground. It was like a skating rink but with cars on it. We could not even idle at a stop light - the car would slide slowly. Suddenly, ABBAS' truck started to drift towards the ditch. He quickly turned the wheel to steer away from the ditch, which shot the trailer out, sending us drifting in the other direction. This happened three times, until ABBAS was able to regain control. Thank you, God. We arrived at the Church at 2 AM. ABBAS invited the driver in, who was planning on sleeping in his truck all night. He put brand new bed sheets on a mattress for him and made him food and tea. It was very touching. Charity in the midst of charity. Rajavan, also known as Jay, told us about his lifestyle in India. He told us he owned a farm, on which he operated a tractor. He grew all kinds of crops. He also owned a big Indian buffalo which supposedly provided his family with milk. It reminded me of my trips to India as a child and I started to miss it. I love India. It is the most beautiful place I have ever been. We played a few games of chess and then called it a night. I woke up at noon to the sound of strange voices. I later found out that these people were a group of volunteers who travelled all the way from Toronto to help us. These are people who have kids, full time jobs, and wives. These people only have so much time for themselves and still choose to spend that little time helping the poor. I felt honored to work with them. We unloaded a few things and then started condensing everything to make room for the church pews. The girls were amazing. They pushed and pushed. I was shocked at their strength and stamina. I got along with everyone. Everyone was so friendly and happy. We managed to unload, organize, and load everything, with the exception of the pews, within 3 hours. We sat down to have a break, and got up two minutes later because the volunteers insisted we get the job done. ABBAS warned them that they would burn out. I knew they would get tired. What happened? They burned out! We played jenga with the pews, and finished loading them within an hour. One of the volunteers told me that I was a rockstar. He said that when he was eighteen, he was a "burden to society" and that I am doing great things with my life. It was nice to hear. However, I wished that charity was common among people. I wished that people wouldn't be praise for it because everyone would be doing it. I wished that it wasn't rare to come across. I found out that the compliments were coming from a 27 year old man who has master's degree in Economics and owns his own business. I was happy to hear that the "burden to society" had been able to lift himself up and become a role model. We finished our work at 6 pm, played a few games of chess, and called it a day.
Chapter 8 - Work Ethics by ABBAS
Working for ABBAS is like training for a professional MMA fight. There is no tolerance for excuses, laziness, or a bad attitude. However, there is one difference. Instead of following a nutrition plan, you have to eat dates and drink tea at least 3 times a day. I feel like my best is not good enough when I am around ABBAS and that is a phenomenal thing. If I do not try to exceed my limits then I am not learning. ABBAS taught me so many valuable things in the course of two weeks. When we were moving stuff in his storage, a topic arose. It was based on my experience at Zara. I got fired for missing one shift. That wasn't the problem. My problem was that I felt my manager wasn't giving me enough respect while terminating me. She spoke to me like I was a clown. ABBAS explained to me that in the corporate world, employers will only give respect to employees that earn it, not seek it. I agreed; although, I was upset that a human could speak to someone in such a harsh manner. Another lesson arose - I was told that if I take things personally, I will never make it. I didn't understand that because people have feelings and it's not always easy to brush things off. Looking back to my large pizza experience, I realized that if I had taken ABBAS' criticism to heart, I would've left and missed out on the opportunity to help thousands of poor people out. Emotions are so powerful. If you let them control you, you will not make it. Remember those words. ABBAS taught me to focus. I am able to think about a million things while working, and it affects my performance. I let my boss down in the process because I am easily distracted. A good example of this was when we went to an auction house to buy things to add to the container. ABBAS and I had to keep track of three separate auctions that were running at the same time. ABBAS needed me to occasionally check up on the other auctions to see if they were nearing the items we needed. I would check, and become so fascinated by how fast the auctioneers' mouths were moving that I would stay watching and forget about ABBAS. I learned to take work seriously. If you aren't focused, you won't make it. Remember those words.
Let's forget about work related skills now. The most important thing ABBAS taught me is to love people. ABBAS has love for everyone. It doesn't matter where you are from, how much money you make, how smart you are... He will always serve.
Where there is hatred, you must bring love.
Remember those words.
Chapter 9 - ABBAS
Who is ABBAS to me? First and foremost, he is my friend - one of my dearest friends. He never lets me down. He always takes care of me. He has advice for every aspect of my life. He is my teacher. He taught me how to serve people. He taught me that "for it is by self-forgetting that one finds". He taught me how to analyze myself. He taught me how to build. How to work hard. Smart. Quick. He taught me so many things. He is my role model. I want to be like him. I want to be able to sleep for two hours per day, to make time for the poor. I want to be able to love unconditionally, regardless of circumstance. I want to be able to bring purpose to my life and inspire others to do the same. I want to feed people, help people, and show people that I am there for them. I want to live my life different than others. I want to be the minority. ABBAS has always been kind to me. He always takes care of me like I am his own. He looks out for me, prays for me, bust most importantly believes in me. He has transformed me so much in the 9 years I've known him. For that, I will always be grateful to him. He is truly a good person. My mother taught me that to be "good" is very difficult. It takes will-power. It takes truth, love, peace, non-violence, and right-conduct.
I am proud to say that ABBAS is one of those "good" people.
Chapter 10 - Emotions, Feelings, Changes
Lately, my emotions have been a rollercoaster. Half of the time I am there but not there. Or so I'm told. Life has been difficult for me lately. I face many challenges, many obstacles, and get hurt plenty. On top of that, I have to figure out what career I want to pursue. I am stuck in my own thoughts. The reason why I am telling you this is because ABBAS has really lifted my spirit up. He taught me to find joy in things like construction, moving boxes, or something as simple as an antique stove that carries history with it. He showed me a different way of living. He taught me the value of time. Every second that goes by must be used correctly. We only rest to prevent burning out. It is all a system. I don't think I have found joy (unconditional happiness) yet, but ABBAS is bringing me closer to it. His presence brings me closer to it. His prayers bring me closer to it. He is guiding me in the right direction. He is giving me the knowledge and understanding I need to become a well-rounded person. A rare person. I am forever grateful to him for the sense of belonging he gives me. He created a family for Viktor and I. A brotherhood. A place where sorrow is diminished and happiness is multiplied. Our worries become his. Our pain becomes his. Our grief becomes his. ABBAS' love for me is changing me. I can see it and I can feel it. I am doing better financially, emotionally, and physically. I work harder. I move faster. I think quicker.
I still have such a long way to go but if I continue to use my time the way ABBAS taught me to, then I will get there.
Chapter 11 - Life
ABBAS shared a beautiful prayer with me on the way back from Grand Bend. It is a prayer by St. Francis of Asisi. It goes,
"Lord, make me a channel of thy peace
That where there is hatred,
I may bring love.
That where there is wrong,
I may bring the spirit of forgiveness.
That where there is discord,
I may bring harmony.
That where there is error,
I may bring truth.
That where there is doubt,
I may bring faith.
That where there is despair,
I may bring hope.
That where there are shadows,
I may bring light.
That where there is sadness,
I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I seek rather to comfort than to be comforted,
To understand than to be understood.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one is awakened to eternal life."
This prayer really touched me. There is only truth to this prayer. If everyone recited this prayer and practiced what it preaches, this world would become a better place. If you analyze the prayer, half of the terms are positive, and half of the terms are negative. What's positive is love, harmony, forgiveness, truth, faith, hope, light, joy. What's negative is the opposite - hatred, discord, wrong-doing, error, doubt, despair, shadows, sadness. Now ask yourself: Do you want a positive life or a negative one? Do you want joy, love and light? Or do you want sadness, hatred, and shadows? I don't need an answer. The answer will be common among all people. It's obvious. If you want that kind of life, you must analyze yourself first. Do any of the negative terms describe your thoughts, speech, or actions? If so, correct them. It's common to hear teenagers lie. "I can't make it into work today because I'm sick." This type of actions will destroy your character. No longer are you different. You suddenly become the majority, and there is nothing special about the majority because they are all the same. Lying is not only wrong. It can hurt someone. It can cause despair. It causes doubt. Sadness. My point is not only to stop lying. It is to refrain from doing anything that isn't righteous. It's to love human beings, regardless of ethnicity, color, status, or age. It's to be harmonious. It is to forgive people for any wrong-doings they have done. To let go of grudges, and pain. No matter the extremity of their actions. It's to be truthful in everything you do. To be truthful with your words. Your actions. If you've been given a task to apply new shingles to an old roof you do not layer the old shingles with new ones. That is not righteous. You don't do your job incorrectly to save time and money. You put in all your effort, rip off the old shingles, and apply new ones. That is righteous. That is truth. It's to bring faith into the lives of others. It's to bring the power of belief into the lives of others. To bring them to God. It's to give them hope. To bring them to the understanding that there is always a brighter day. To bring them to the realization that shadows are God's way of testing you. It's God's way of shaping you. Strengthening you. My knees are so bruised up from installing insulation on the scaffold. Do I give up? Do I wait until I have knee pads to install more? No. I will push and I will struggle and something beautiful will happen. My knees will never bruise from that amount of stress again. They will be stronger. More resilient. That's life and that's how you should live it. You should always push. Always love. Always speak the truth. Always be righteous. Always help the poor. Give your greatest possessions away with zero regret. All of this is so much more important than wealth, education, and fame. Don't let society shape you. You shape society. Give a new meaning to love. Love is not buying your girlfriend a $200 necklace. Love is sending a 40 foot container to Haiti.
Love is helping others.
Love is self-forgetting.
Remember those words.
A wise man once said,
"Be the change you want to see in the world."
Chapter 12 - Aftermath
Chapters 1 through 11
were written 2 months ago.
My life has changed dramatically since then in the most beautiful way.
Let's take a look at the past and present.
* On-call based work
* No self-control
* Haven't applied to a post-secondary institution
* Always complaining
* Always asking questions
* Always worrying
* Started to believe I was facing depression
* Have 3 jobs
* Got accepted to George Brown for Marketing
* Never complaining
* Carefully asking questions
* No worries
It is no coincidence that ABBAS' teachings and presence have influenced these changes. I strongly suggest that you hold onto the people who impact your life positively. It is important that you surround yourself with people who strive for excellence. Your friends are a reflection of yourself.
So choose wisely.
My intentions are not only to share a beautiful story.
Thank you ABBAS.
Millions of people dream to come across someone like you.
You are a blessing to have in my life.
And thank you all for reading my story. It was my pleasure to share it with you.
I hope I have helped someone.