Face masks

Devotees Helping Devotees – and Others Too!

Part 1 of Series: Gita St. John, Donated 200+ Homemade Face Masks

In these days of social distancing, it’s not always easy to find ways to healthfully help others, but SRF devotees have been finding original ways to help devotees—and others too!

In response to my request—via SRF devotee newsletters—that devotees send stories of how they have assisted others during this global health crisis, I received dozens of endearing emails with stories about bringing people food or medicine, making masks, praying for others, and making music to soothe the souls of fellow devotees. The responses were so manifold that we have decided to run these stories periodically as a “Devotees Helping Devotees – and Others Too!” series on the Yogananda Seva blog.

Each of the devotee’s stories are rich with love, a spirit of service, and a sense of serving God and Guru through fellow humans. Above all, the devotees who shared their stories reported receiving more joy and blessings in return for their actions than they felt they had given—even though receiving something in return was not their original intention or motivation.

One of the most inspiring stories came from Encinitas Devotee Gita St. John, who has been a SRF Kriyaban since 1990. She fell ill with non-coronavirus respiratory infection just as the worldwide health crisis began. She suddenly was bed-ridden and unable to leave the house. Without her mentioning this to anyone, more than a dozen devotees spontaneously called her to see if she needed anything.

 “Why was everyone calling me?” Gita wondered. “Was Master involved?” she laughed. “It all came from a higher place. They followed their higher guidance. We live in grace and don’t realize it until we stop and think.”

The devotees who called Gita picked up crucial medical supplies, did grocery shopping, and cooked meals for her. Once she recovered several weeks later, Gita resolved to do her part to help others.

So, she began sewing face masks–and the effort spiraled from there. First, she sewed four dozen masks for children at Rady’s Children’s Hospital in Encinitas, California. Then she made two dozen masks for an organization called “Sew for Care” in Carlsbad, California. Then, she created two dozen child-sized masks and a dozen adult-sized masks for the Women’s Crisis Center in Oceanside, California. 

“I made masks for the employees at my bank branch, at the UPS store, and at grocery stores,” Gita says. “Anytime I saw folks not wearing a mask, I offered them one. It was critical then as the awareness and seriousness of the virus was not well known (at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak). I was happy to offer and share–and maybe protect.”

Finally, Gita made masks for all of her SRF friends and acquaintances as well as her children and their children. In all, Gita sewed more than 200 masks, and she’s kept going–she even gave me one as we worked together on this story! 

There was another dimension to Gita’s mask-making as well. “Whenever someone came to pick up their masks, they would invariably bring me either flowers, fresh fruit, or even a cooked dish,” Gita explains. “Others wanted to pay for them. I had resolved to not make any money, but only to give them away. To me, it was a way to counter all the negativity and headache that was happening in our world.”

But some people insisted on giving Gita a donation. So, she decided to collect the “donations” and donate them to SRF. To date, she has collected more than $200 for Guruji’s work. “I thought the bartering that was taking place naturally was a very sweet exchange of love and good will between devotees,” she says. “Every time I handed a mask to anyone, I truly felt happier inside. All the while I was filled with gratitude for the many blessings I was feeling–too numerous to count,” including she says, knowing that a monastic and other devotees were praying for her during her own recovery.

Gita has gotten so much joy out of helping to keep others safe that she says: “if you know anyone who needs a mask, please let me know I will be happy to provide them with one!”

Editor’s Note: Gita has been providing meals to devotees at the monthly Day of Service lunch at the Encinitas Temple for more than a decade. Her generosity clearly came back to her in her hour of need at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis! She also served as the first Encinitas Temple Greeter and has continued for the past 24 years. She served in the Temple Bookroom for 10 years, and has been on the Hospitality Tea Committee for more than 15 years.