Kindness

“Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.”

~ Naomi Shihab Nye

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16 thoughts on “Kindness

  1. Unquestionably, it has taken loss to make me fully aware of the impact of kindness. Every day, I am trying to give back what I’ve been given by remembering what a difference everyone’s kindness has made in my life. Thank you, Bill.

  2. This was an outstanding poem.Sadly,not many people think like this and we need to make them aware of such values which actually would help us. Kindness begets Kindness- simple but a profound truth.Thanks so much for sharing !

  3. Reblogged this on Teacher as Transformer and commented:
    This is a wonderful poem from Naomi Shihab Nye shared by Bill. If we were kind to each other each day, could we reduce the violence in our world? Compassion requires time to just be in the world and with the world including other humans we often take for granted.

  4. Thank you. This poem inspired me so that I choreographed a dance duet a few years ago using it as a springboard. I find myself repeating lines from this almost daily. Love it.

  5. This is one of my favourite poems. It is one where the meaning came home to me quite profoundly when a total stranger showed me a random act of kindness on a day when I was in the depths of despair. It is true what the poem says “Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things” and “Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing”
    and then you really do appreciate kindness and also you begin to pass it on …
    ” Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, and then goes with you every where ……………like a shadow or a friend.”

    Thanks for the reminder of the message in this poem today.

  6. Oh how wonderfully this is said! I can tell that the author has lived every syllable.In the grip of loss, I have too often forgotten to be kind to myself. Kind, not indulgent. There is a great difference. One leads to healing, the other to self-pity and deeper suffering. Ms. Nye understands all of this and much more that forms the potent foundation of this piece. Thank you for sharing it with us.
    Blessings, Alia

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