I don’t usually write posts like this. I admit, as a writer, as an artist, as a human, I  can tend toward sentamentalism more than I’d like to — but I try to avoid it, because it doesn’t always help in reaching down toward the truth as I feel I am usually trying to do in my life.

And sharing poems on the web can feel like the most banal, uninspired, and downright shallow thing to do when trying to express oneself (unless you’ve written a damn good poem yourself). So, I don’t do it. Until today.

Because today our friend Stephanie gave me a poem. I’ve reprinted it here because it’s the kind of poetry I wish there was more of — clear, honest, and still lyrical. Undoubtedly, this poem is  all over the Internet. But maybe this time the popular masses have found something that really is good and true and full of wisdom. You be the judge.



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 every where
like a shadow or a friend.


3 Responses to “kindness”

  1. Naomi Shihab Nye is such a compassionate, talented poet.

    “Before you know what kindness really is
    you must lose things …”

    “Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing …”


  2. Beautiful poem. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Wow, how is it that Naomi Shihab so easily put into words the feelings that I have had. Thanks so much Mike. I really enjoyed the poem. Best Wishes!

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