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 everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

– Naomi Shihab Nye

3 Comments leave a comment below

  1. I love this poem.

    I have 2-3 that I put in a reminder system to read every few months. It’s going in there, along with:

    “Caminante, no hay camino” por Antonio Machado

    Caminante, son tus huellas
    el camino y nada más;
    Caminante, no hay camino,
    se hace camino al andar.
    Al andar se hace el camino,
    y al volver la vista atrás
    se ve la senda que nunca
    se ha de volver a pisar.
    Caminante, no hay camino
    sino estelas en la mar.

  2. tears in my eyes, heart in my throat. beautiful.

  3. Wow, haven’t heard this one before, I love it! Thanks for sharing!

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