by Ven. Thubten Kunga

Linnaea, a long-term student of Venerable Chodron and Spokane local since 2017, stepped up to meet needs in the Spokane community created by the Covid pandemic. She shared this during a Sharing the Dharma Day discussion group in late 2020.

Linnaea first felt moved to do something when she heard that Congress was considering not giving any additional Covid relief. Seven million Americans were food insecure at the time and another eight million were expected to follow.

Knowing that Native American populations have been more adversely affected by Covid, Linnaea contacted the food bank run by the Spokane Tribe. They gave her a shopping list when she asked what they needed because they didn’t have enough people to shop for food. When she came back with food, they told her they needed blankets and wool jackets. Linnaea went to five different thrift shops and bought everything 50% off with her senior discount.

Linnaea continues to donate to the indigenous center once a month. “It just feels so good because one, I’m helping the community, two, people are being fed, and three, there’s that connection. There’s such a difference when you connect with a person rather than just write a check and put it in the mail.” At the thrift shops, she also rejoices with the staff who know that others are benefitting.

How Can I Do More?

Whenever she goes to Spokane, Linnaea takes out 25 singles to give to the homeless she encounters. “What to me is really special about this is seeing the people themselves, talking to each person. Connecting, joking with them, laughing. We look in each other’s eyes with love until the red light turns green. In Covid times, the homeless are the only “strangers” connecting with another stranger. It doesn’t happen in stores anymore.”

One day she asked herself, “How can I do more?” “I thought dogs. And dog food.” She now puts six cups of dog food into plastic bags to give to homeless people with dogs. “They are so thankful because no one gives to the dogs.”

Linnaea also bought 50 towels and 30 blankets at the thrift store for the local vet so they can do surgeries on dogs and allow them to stay overnight.

Part of the Practice

Linnaea sees her social work as helping her to prepare for a peaceful death, alongside meditation and listening to Dharma teachings.

“Whenever I see someone in need, I just ask, what do you need. And if I can physically give to them and I have enough money, I go get it and I give it to them.”

Linnaea gives to other charities and Dharma groups, spending half of her monthly social security check on donations. She has prayed her whole life to be able to give to whomever needed it, and that’s happening right now. “Isn’t that wonderful? I’m loving it. When I die, I don’t want to think: if only I had done more. I do as much as I can now with what I have.”

During this time, Linnaea has continued to run her local dog sanctuary, feeding and housing 10 elderly and special needs giant dogs until they die.

Lifetimes of Practice

Linnaea first met Venerable Chodron at a teaching by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala about 35 years ago. She lived in California for a while, renting out four houses at a fair rate so that people could afford to live in a “well-maintained building.” She moved to Spokane about four years ago, drawn there because of two people who had rescued many dogs of her favorite: Great Pyrenees. Having Sravasti Abbey nearby was a wonderful bonus.

“’If you want to know what happened in your past lives, look at your current life’ (a well-known Tibetan adage), so I know I must have studied the Dharma.” Linnaea has had experiences in Japan and India that convinced her she has been a monastic in previous lives. She appreciates the opportunity to continue her practice in this life and is thankful for the Abbey and Venerable Chodron.

Linnaea said she aspires to be like Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion: “May I be the one to support people without jobs who can’t buy food. It really balances the meditation and taking care of dogs.