05 December 2011

more kindness

I posted the poem Kindness on my blog early last year.  At the time, my marriage had just started going through the rough patch that would finally end it sometime later and I felt that the future that I had dreamt was slowly crumbling.  When I heard this poem read aloud during Sunday Service at the Buddhist House, it brought tears to my eyes.

There is a truth in this poem that reveals itself to me just a little bit more each time I read it.  It has helped me understand that true kindness is an instinctive reaction from the heart.  It is not something that can be acted or faked.  Only once our barriers have been brought down and our ego reserves depleted, can our hearts be laid bare enough for the skin to be scraped back just that bit more and allow for the true seeds of kindness to be planted within us.  Once planted, it's up to us to cultivate these seeds, but I think that the planting of them is something that life must do to us.

The journey goes on, and the poem continues to teach me.


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 ~

(Words From Under the Words: Selected Poems)


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