Right now many of us are angry and grieving and afraid, doing what we can to get by and are completely done with being at home.
And many of us, by choice or by necessity, are out there in the world risking infection to keep the rest of us fed and safe. Many, from medical professionals to grocery workers to my friend who works in the post office, do not have sufficient protective gear or sick leave.
How do we balance our need for safety with the need to care for others?
The first mission is survival. It is a thought that has gone through my head many times over the years. I imagined saying it to my children as we lived in financial comfort. I wanted them to be prepared for a day when the world could change dramatically, to remember to take care of themselves first.
Here we are today in a world dramatically different, and that part of my brain is saying “See, I told you so.” And while it is correct, in that we need to take steps to stay safe, this view of the world is incomplete. We cannot, for example, resort to hoarding in the name of survival, because…
We also need to “bear the burden of the other,” which according to Rabbi Ira Stone is the primary mission of Mussar. This point of view is equally true, especially now. We need each other to get through this thing. One of the most important soul traits to help support others is Lovingkindness. Pirkei Avot (1:2) teaches us that the world is built on acts of Lovingkindness. (Which inspired Menachem Creditor to write this amazing song). These are acts that go above and beyond to support others, without expecting anything in return.
This brings to mind a Mussar practice to balance Survival with Lovingkindness, because right now we need to do both, survive and support others without expecting anything in return. Each day, try to do one thing mindfully to support your own wellbeing, and one thing to support others.
- take a bath
- watch your favorite tv show
- read for pleasure, spiritual inspiration or personal growth
- ask for help
- take the first step to reconcile
- Call someone who is isolated or sick
- Make a charitable donation
- Buy something extra from a local business
- offer to help
During this time, many things that we normally do are extra hard. For example, it might take an extra effort to be polite or clean up after yourself. So right now, doing these extra hard things anyway can be considered an act of Lovingkindness because they support others, help create a better world, and are more than the minimum you could be doing.
What are you doing for self care, and to care for others?