To know kindness

It was a late, late night at yoga teacher training tonight, so I am sharing with you a poem that keeps appearing in my life for the last week or so in place of my usual post. I’ve been trying to trace down an “official” version so I could check on copyright permissions, but I have not had any luck so far. I’m finding pages and pages of Google hits that include the text of the poem, and I am too tired to continue searching deeper to find the information I need.

And so I share it with the hope that you find it as meaningful and as thought-provoking as I have.

Before You Know What Kindness Really Is

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, from The Words Under the Words

This entry was posted on April 26, 2011, 11:38 pm, in Quotes and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.