When Vancouver’s Tommy Castelli — a recovering heroin addict who’s been clean for eight months and suffers from liver disease — ran out of money waiting for his December disability cheque to arrive, he turned to social media in a desperate search for a “free bite to eat.”
And while Reddit is often known for its trolls and cruel anonymous commenters, Castelli was greeted with a surprising response — generosity and a lesson in the values of Sikhism.
“I am hungry and have no money. I’ll save you the sad story, anyone know where I can either get a free bite to eat or food to cook today, I haven’t eaten in two days,” Castelli posted to the Reddit Vancouver board earlier this week.
“I live off a very small amount of money,” Castelli, who lives in an SRO in downtown Vancouver, told Vancouver Desi on Friday, clarifying that he wasn’t asking for money, but rather a safe place to find a free meal to tide him over until his next payment came in. “For the most part, people have been incredibly generous.”
“People gave me helpful advice and I was really moved.”
Some Redditors privately messaged Castelli and dropped off groceries, homemade meals and even meal tickets to a local community centre.
“It (also) started a really great conversation about Sikhism,” Castelli said.
One Reddit user pointed out that Castelli can “always have dinner at one (of) the Sikh temples,” and shared a link to a directory.
Another user further commented, expanding on the Sikh concept of ‘langar,” which is the kitchen found at all gurdwaras where free meals are served to visitors.
“Never forget this, every single Sikh temple in the world will welcome you with open arms (and) offer you free food without any sort of judgment,” the user wrote. “You will be welcomed there for free food, free of judgment, even if you came there every day for every meal. Nothing will be asked of you in return.”
“I am far from a religious person, but the hospitality of our gurdwaras (temples) will always make me proud to be a Sikh.”
This was welcome news for Castelli, who said he “had no clue” about this pillar of Sikhism.
“I had no idea about the Sikh temples,” he said.
It’s also a great alternative for Castelli because he tries to avoid the social services in the Downtown Eastside because there are “drug dealers on every single corner,” he said.
“There’s a whole bunch of resources it turns out outside of the Downtown Eastside,” he said, adding he’s now aware of the services at local community centres, mental health centres “and then all the temples.”
“It’s really good to know,” he said.
While Castelli has yet to try out a Sikh temple for dinner, he said he plans to visit one this weekend with some fellow Redditors.