Sikhs from around metro Detroit gathered for a special day of service Aug. 3 for the one-year anniversary of the tragic attack when half a dozen Sikh worshippers were killed near Milwaukee, WI.
In Sikhism, eternal optimism - or Chardi Kala - plays an important role. Sikhs used that optimism to turn the tragedy into something positive.
Volunteers worked for several hours at the Sikh Society of Michigan, a gurdwara in Sterling Heights, to pack 20,000 meals that will feed families through Kids Against Hunger, an Oak Park-based nonprofit.
Harnoor Singh, 15, student at Northville High School, was among the volunteers. He said they packed small bags of dried rice, soy and vegetables in the gurdwara's langar hall.
"In the langar hall, every time there is a gathering for service, we give out langar. Basically, it’s a free meal we put out for the community," Singh said.
The langar hall, a staple in gurdwaras, speaks to the generosity encouraged in Sikhism.
"We chose this kind of service because essentially it’s a main tenet of Sikhism. We're always supposed to serve," he said.
The event was one among many that took place across the country, including a 6K Memorial Walk and Run held by the Oak Creek, WI Sikh community.
Last year's tragedy leads to positive action in Sikh communityBalbir Singh, 2008 West Bloomfield High graduate, helped coordinate the day of service. He said he was working in California last year when he learned of the tragedy.
Singh, who works as operations manager for New York-based The Sikh Coalition, said the 2012 attack was "a pretty big shock". The response of his brothers and sisters in the Sikh community, he said, also left him inspired.
"We were able to get a Senate hearing about domestic terrorism," Singh said. "There hadn't been a hearing in more than five years."
The Coalition also started tracking hate crimes and advocating for issues like the right to wear religious headgear, which also affects people of other cultures and religions, he said.
"These are not only issues for Sikhs ... Whenever we take on issues, we always approach them as human rights issues," Singh said.
He said the spirit of inclusion also extended to the day of service, at which several interfaith groups participated.