Sikhs donate to Oso during their holiest day

From left, Nikki Mahant joins Sukhman, Lucky and Raj Dhillon, as well as Chirag Mahant, in sharing a meal at the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Marysville on Vaisakhi. - Kirk Boxleitner
From left, Nikki Mahant joins Sukhman, Lucky and Raj Dhillon, as well as Chirag Mahant, in sharing a meal at the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Marysville on Vaisakhi.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

MARYSVILLE — On the holiest day in the calendar of the Sikh faith, the members of the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Marysville demonstrated one of the central tenets of their religion — that of charity toward others, regardless of their backgrounds — by raising $4,100 and presenting it to Snohomish County Executive John Lovick on Sunday, April 13, the Marysville temple’s observance of Vaisakhi, so that Lovick could deliver that check to the United Way of Snohomish County in turn.

Lovick was joined in his April 13 visit to the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple by Salli Hintz, on behalf of U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, but it was not his first time at the Marysville temple, as he had previously attended a candlelight vigil at the temple in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, near the end of 2012.

“It’s a tribute to the Marysville community that this Sikh temple feels comfortable enough to be so welcoming to visitors,” Lovick said of his visit to the temple that day, during which he followed the Sikh custom of removing his shoes and donning a head covering out of courtesy. “I’m always impressed when I stop by to talk to them, how they listen with their eyes, without looking away, and when they speak, they look at you in a way that makes you feel honored and pleased to have them care so much. Their concern resonates through their deeds, and enhances the diversity of this community.”

Satwant Pandher, president of the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Marysville, explained that the members of his temple managed to raise their donated funds for the victims of the Oso mudslide within the space of two Sunday services, since they didn’t want to delay in relaying their financial aid.

“Not many people come into the temple during the week, so we were working on short notice,” Pandher said. “We called the Arlington mayor and asked if we could send food, but we were told that money was preferable. On those two Sundays, our members sat down and made donations of $5, $10, $20, even $100 each. We would have liked to raise more money, but we worried that, if we waited another week, it would come too late for them.”

Pandher tied this act of charity to the Sikhs’ oldest traditions, which are in evidence in the Nishan Sahib, the Sikh holy flag that flies outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Marysville, and is ceremonially changed each year as part of the temple’s observance of Vaisakhi.

“In India, when you see that flag on a building, it means that anyone can walk in, be welcomed, receive a meal and find a place to stay the night,” Pandher said. “We have done this for 500 years. Whatever you can do to help, you must do that. That charity is part of being a Sikh. If someone is hungry, you do not say, ‘Oh, you are a Muslim, or a Christian, so I cannot feed you.’ We respect all religions. We do not discriminate.”

Indeed, on this year’s observance of Vaisakhi, both sides of 64th Avenue NE were lined with parked cars, in several blocks each direction, as the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Marysville served meals to an estimated 700 guests, both Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike.

“I feel very bad for the families of those who are lost, and those who are still missing,” Pandher said. “I am glad that we were able to help, even though it was a small, meager amount of help, but even a drop of water can help quench a thirst.”

“We have a long road of recovery ahead,” Lovick said. “This gift, from the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple, comes from the heart, and it’s going to our heart, in Oso. When these people can dig as deep as they did, to raise these funds, it makes you realize that we should all do a little more. The good example of their charity has already inspired others, and by embracing this temple as warmly as it has, the Marysville community becomes not only more diverse, but also more wholesome. As terrible as this disaster has been, it has brought out the best in us.”

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