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Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

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.


Comment by Christina Feldman

“In her poem “Kindness”, Naomi Shihab Nye writes that it is only in seeing the size of the cloth of sorrow that we come to understand that it is only kindness that makes sense anymore. Hand in hand mindfulness and metta ask us to open our eyes and hearts to the sorrows of the world, to be touched by the struggle, fear, and violence that damage that scar the lives of many. We are asked to truly sense the helplessness of those trapped in poverty, neglect and deprivation, to open our eyes and hearts to the threads of despair, loneliness and pain that leave too many people in our world forgotten and invisible. Then it is true that only kindness can make sense anymore. To commit ourselves to kindness in our thoughts words and acts and to be a conscious participant in the healing of the world we are part of. Metta brings us out of the shell of self-absorption, allowing us to be touched by the world and to touch the world with kindness. With friendliness and kindness we take our place in the family of all beings.”

From her book Boundless Heart – The Buddha’s Path of Kindness, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity, p22. Shambala Publications, 2017

Contributed by Mike