What it’s like to practice Sikhi in the heart of the Bible Belt
Honestly, this is my very first blog post ever…so if it seems scattered forgive me. I suppose I will start with telling you my story.
My name is Brian, I live in Biloxi Mississippi which by the very nature of it’s geographical location seems like a strange place to be from and talk about Sikhism. Wait!…It gets stranger, I’m a middle aged man of German descent raised in the Lutheran tradition so there ya have another anomaly in the matrix, A Lutheran in the deep south. “So what you’re saying is you’re a middle aged white guy of European descent who somewhere along the line decided all on your own that you’re a Sikh?” Yep
So I guess you’re asking yourself at this point “How the heck did that happen?” Well honestly it’s a long story but not a difficult one to understand. I spent 25 years in the US Military, Active duty, National Guard and Reserve. I’m third generation military and my son was the fourth so I guess you could say it’s the family business to some degree. I was raised a military brat, my father retired from the military when I was 15 years old and we settled in Biloxi MS so that’s where the story will begin.
When I was Active Duty I was stationed in the Washington DC area and when I got off of active duty I worked in very large Emergency room at a not so prestigious teaching hospital in the area. That was literally my first contact with anyone of the Sikh faith and didn’t know it. A large contingent of our residents were Sikhs that had done medical school in India. Some wore turbans, some didn’t but the majority of them had the last name of Singh. Fast forward 20 years or so and here I am in the middle of (for several years) a crisis of faith, I’m speaking to a friend of mine named James about this crisis and he says to me “Who are the nicest people you’ve ever met? “ (speaking about a faith based group). I paused and thought about it…the Sikhs I met at the hospital two decades prior. He said look at what they believe and why they believe it, you may find some answers. James took his own life several months later after losing his battle with PTSD. So that’s what I did and a couple of years later here I am…talking to you.
So back to the title “A Lone Non-Punjabi Sikh in the heart of the Bible Belt”, I live in a county that has over 300 churches of close to just as many denominations and not a single Gurdwara. There are two Vietnamese Buddhist Temples and a Synagogue. So needless to say with just those figures alone I’m outnumbered and unsupported locally LOL. I think there may be one Punjabi family on the coast that owns a liquor store outside of the Air Force base here, at least I have seen a gentleman with a Dastaar going in and out of said store frequently so I’m going to assume he owns it. That being said I have relied on my internet skills (insert smirk) to reach out and learn as much as I can. It’s not easy to make Punjabi Sikh friends, I can only speculate as to why but a white guy from the south asking if he is welcome at your Gurdwara didn’t have a positive result when I contacted the closest one to me (it’s an hour from me) and the next closest one to me is three hours away. Now I’m whining and you don’t want to hear any of that.
I am starting this blog in the hopes that this will help me stay on my path and maybe…just maybe someone will actually read it and reach out. In the meantime I’ll keep watching my videos, reading my Nitnem and studying the Gurbani the best I can.