Loving-kindness changes the world? Is it possible? The other day I was walking down the street. There was a group of adults and a ten-year-old girl standing and talking to each other. The men were in deep conversation. There also was a woman and a girl. I was thinking about my COVID stance vis-à vis this group–worrying if there would be enough distance between us as I contemplated walking past them. But something else came.
I noticed that the girl was distressed. The woman looked directly into her eyes and listened intently as the girl explained why she was distressed. Then, the girl had said what she needed to say. The woman pulled her into her chest and held her in a loving embrace. Watching this interaction of two people whom I do not know was deeply felt. In general, it was an act of love. The woman listened in a way that helped the young girl feel deeply heard and embraced her with love and compassion after she said what she needed to say.
Evidence of Loving-kindness
I knew that I was watching something that I deeply desired, and I also knew that I doubted that such an emotion could be genuine. It was not just that someone would hold another’s distress so lovingly but also that one could accept that offering of kindness without fear that something else, something dark, would emerge. Such an action was absent from my childhood, and I have never wholly believed it could exist. Watching this interchange as I walked around the group helped me sense into that longing and fear.
Nevertheless, here it was, evidence that, in any given moment, loving-kindness could prevail. I noticed it and held space for what it meant for me. It helped me appreciate how delicate this part of me is and how much it longs for this kind of interaction. I felt joyful knowing that this young girl could be heard and loved for who she was.
When we see something for which we have a longing, it can touch us in a healing way. As I was watching this interaction, I identified with the ten-year-old girl. I connected to her distress. The women responded to that distress with her heartfelt attention. I felt worried that she would act harshly or mockingly. And just the opposite happened.
How Loving-kindness Changes the World
When I saw the loving embrace, I could feel my relief and my sadness when I realized that my body expected a negative response. Watching this interaction allowed me to be with this part of me with compassion. I could be the loving elder to my young, distressed heart. I hold this precious memory whenever I need a reminder that there is love and support whenever we need it.
So share Loving-kindness as much as possible. You never know who might be watching.
Painting by Isobel Bennett Hennman