Mario Alberto Martinez Mayo
La Cocina de Amma, Mexico
After meeting Amma, my husband Mario and I felt deeply moved. More than that, we felt a transformation taking place within ourselves. It was the last thing we had expected, but we felt a profound desire to serve awakening within us, a desire to do something concrete for the sake of others. Even though we saw suffering all around, and it seemed difficult to make a difference, we knew we had to try to do whatever we could to help.
Along with a circle of friends who were similarly inspired by Amma, we began to brainstorm things we could do. Initially, we began donating goods to communities in need. When Amma’s disciple, Br. Dayamrita, was visiting our center in Cancun, he suggested that we join Embracing the World’s international project to feed the homeless and hungry, usually under the name Mother’s Kitchen. For us, that meant La Cocina de Amma.
What immediately appealed to us was that this was a simple, efficient way to give help to those in need and at the same time have personal contact with them. With our background as architects, we started with the design and construction of a kitchen with the capacity to receive donations of goods, food products and accommodate volunteers to help all the places in need once a month.
During this process we had doubts as to how to best structure the project and even though everyone liked the idea, it didn’t seem obvious how to put it into motion and find a proper place to offer the food. After nearly a year, when we were on the verge of giving up, we met a woman who was coordinating a similar project in Monterrey, Mexico and she helped us understand that the objective was not just a question of serving food but preparing delicious vegetarian food with love and devotion, in such a way that those who would receive it would feel the benefit in their hearts; preparing real ‘soul food.’ Hearing her perspective, we felt there could be no better way for us to put Amma’s teachings in action.
In our first experience, we prepared meals for about 80 people who lived in a very poor community. One of the ladies who came for a meal was named Emma. We had the chance to spend some time with her and others there and find out what else they were lacking in terms of healthcare, education and housing. As we spent time with them, they began to open up and Emma shared with us her personal story of having survived an abusive relationship with an alcoholic husband. In her attempt to get out of her situation, she met someone who had helped her move forward and empower herself as a human being and a woman, and in this way she began her own form of social service in her community with the intention of helping others the same way someone helped her. She founded a neighborhood association to help support other families in their community in need. She told us she was very happy that we chose to come to help those in her community; they receive very little help from any outside agency. More than anything else, we were moved to see how this woman, despite her surroundings and lack of resources, was still able to do so much for others.
This gave us the opportunity to recognize that the people we were serving were actually giving us something much more valuable than what we had given them. They were giving us the gift of compassion and humility that comes along with service and sacrifice, and they were illustrating for us in a very real way how a small effort can have a big impact.
Even though we feel we are just beginning Mother’s Kitchen here in Mexico, we hope that with each meal we serve it will continue to grow and that more and more people will join us, motivated by giving something of themselves for a greater good.