Teacher of Loving Kindness (Metta)

Embodying loving kindness is a conscious decision that must be made every moment. Simply reducing the pace at which we trudge through life allows us to listen and treat each other with loving kindness. We live fast and speak fast, but often forget to listen. Negativity, hatred, anger, and misery are automatic, but being positive and offering loving kindness is a decision we must consciously make.

We not only have to choose to be kind to one another, but also to ourselves. This does not mean we need to embrace an illusion of toxic positivity. We can start by acknowledging that the pandemic was not easy for anyone. We must be kind to ourselves and acknowledge that we’re doing the best we can in the present moment.

Loving kindness is not only communicated verbally, it can also be transmitted nonverbally. The negative space, the silences between the spoken words, are just as important as the words themselves. How we look at each other and interact with each other have equal potential to spread loving kindness.

Shortly after the mask orders when into effect, there was a noticeable sense of heightened compassion when seeing fellow citizens dawning masks. It was a scary time. It was new to everyone. Even through the masks, it was clear that this was hard for everyone, but it was equally clear that we were all in this together. Prior to the pandemic, going to the grocery store was almost mind-numbingly mundane. It was so easy to unconsciously navigate the aisles, load your cart, have the cashier ring you up, and then go home. There was no thought paid attention to the items on the shelves, no concept of how the items got on the shelf, or who put them there.

In the times of the pandemic, minimum wage grocery clerks were literally putting their lives at risk by touching all these items and being in close contact with a large amount of the general public. They had to deal with anxious customers who were flocking to the stores with the intention of buying everything they could before someone else did. They also had to monitor distances between customers and enforce item limits. The store clerk job description pre-pandemic and the job description during the pandemic were wildly irreconcilable. To add insult to injury, health insurance and extra compensation were nowhere in sight for these workers.

In addition to healthcare workers and grocery store clerks, postal workers, public transit officials, and truck drivers were just a few more of the workers that the government deemed “essential” to society. These workers were required components to keep societal machinery in constant motion. There were countless stories about essential workers going out of their way to help others: postal workers delivering supplies to the elderly, teachers driving by their students’ houses to congratulate them on graduating high school, nurses singing songs to their patients, neighbors leaving each other small presents on the porch, and police officers participating in birthday parades dawning blue lights and sirens.

The largest demonstration of metta was when 30,000 healthcare workers came from out of state to help New York during its surge in cases. The governor declared, “Come help us in our Emergency Rooms!” and healthcare workers flocked into the burning flames that was the pandemic. What an amazing display of metta!

The virus taught us how to listen, how to learn, and how to be more human. Our intellectual personal protective equipment (PPE) resources must be allocated to defeat the pandemic of the emptiness that plagues our American culture. We can give from a place of inner abundance. We can help others by being compassionate with ourselves. We can move from being a bystander to being an upstander and engage in the totality of humanity. This is radical kindness. Let us be like a chemical free radical whose dangling, unpaired valence electrons are highly reactive bonds. Let us be radically kind. Let our kindness be reactive, impulsive, and contagious.