Loving Kindness

598448_10200603133221595_1458477756_nA few days ago, I had the opportunity to meet the chief monk of Tramm Neak Pagoda, where Bridge of Life School operates a free Beginning English class and where we’ve been volunteering for much of the past two weeks.

I was worried about behaving respectfully toward the chief, but knew little beyond that I should remove my shoes before entering – the same as everywhere else in Cambodia. I needn’t have worried. Even after I butchered my bow to him, the chief’s face lit up when he recognized me as one of the Pathfinders Project volunteers. “I pray for good luck for you,” he said. “Big heart.”

I felt silly. Here was the man responsible for feeding, housing, and educating dozens of monks and who offered up his facilities for free to Bridge of Life School recognizing me for volunteering one hour a day to help teach children English. “No, thank you,” I said, “for all that you do and for letting us be here.” He didn’t understand. He repeated, “I pray for good luck for you. Big heart. Thank you.”

1176256_10200603120221270_1208087833_nI’m glad the chief didn’t understand me. I was deflecting his generous words out of my learned discomfort with praise. But as I sat in my approximation of the lotus position wondering what I should do next, I realized that the chief’s recognition of our desire to do good is precisely the kind of interaction we are trying to facilitate through Pathfinders Project. It was a moment of understanding that transcended linguistic and religious differences. I made a donation to the pagoda and bowed once more, this time more deeply and gracefully, before ducking out to teach English.

The very next day, the other Pathfinders and I were walking the muddy road past Wat Bo Pagoda to town when we encountered a man whose moped and trailer were stuck in the mud. I got behind the trailer to push and sent the man on his way. No mud splatter, no sweat (which is saying something in Cambodia), no big deal. We resumed walking.

Then we heard clapping from the pagoda. A young, shirtless monk was smiling at us and giving us the thumbs up. We waved, smiled, and continued walking. Over the pagoda fence and through the trees lining the road, the monk matched our progress. Still beaming, he shouted, “Loving kindness!” gave us another thumbs up, and then ducked into a small building. As we made our way up the muddy road, we could hear him sharing excitedly with the other monks in Khmer.

No, the OTHER kind of Mettā...

No, the OTHER Mettā…

Loving kindness. That’s a perfect Buddhist translation of what we are trying to spread through Pathfinders Project. We wish to acknowledge and celebrate the compassion we find in others and deepen our own humanism in the process.

Posted Thursday, August 15th, 2013 under Awareness, Philosophy, Travel.


  1. Beautiful, beautiful story. Humbling and full of great lessons. I’m so happy you are having these person to person connections. Of course that’s what it’s all about. love, Auntomamo

  2. Beautiful Conor. So proud of who you are and the introspection you are constantly growing through. Love you

  3. Leah Randolph says:

    I LOVE it!!! This is EXACTLY what you wrote about in your blog while sitting on the plane! These “moment(s) of understanding that transcended linguistic and religious differences” will continue to humble you and remind you that you are on YOUR PATH…a most unbelievable and honorable path.

  4. caminante you are the camino

  5. “I was deflecting his generous words out of my learned discomfort with praise.” I didn’t figure that one out until my 40s. You’re way ahead of the curve.

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