“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.”
These last months we have all experienced some form of letting go of what we counted on and perhaps even saved. For most of us, this experience is one we had never known before and perhaps never imagined could happen in our lifetime. How we relate to family, friends, theater, music, worship, jobs, school, travel, illness and death suddenly changed. We have known a range of feelings and how desolate the landscape of kindness is. What have I counted and carefully saved and been asked to let go?
“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.”
Yes, we have known sorrow. We have seen people risk their lives to save the lives of others. We have seen people homeless and homebound, immigrants and migrants, and great numbers of people unemployed and living in poverty and hunger. They were always present and now we see them in plain sight. We have witnessed and some of us have known the suffering and the pain of death of a loved one, unable to alleviate the suffering and unable to be present. How have I known sorrow?
“Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore…”
In the midst of it all we have found new ways of relating, of going without that which we once thought necessary. Perhaps we find ourselves waving at people as we walk in our neighborhood, offering to buy groceries for another, sew masks, draw flowers on the sidewalks and on windows, celebrate birthdays and weddings driving by in our cars, sharing dinner and a glass of wine on zoom, sharing free movies and listening to music together, calling those who live alone, waiting with those who are sick, crying with those who are grieving. In the midst of it all, caring for our souls, offering ourselves the same care we give to another as we recognize we are in this together. How have I known kindness? How have I offered kindness toward myself?
– quoted text from “Kindness” in Words Under the Words: Selected Poems ©1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye