Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saved by a Poem

When I was younger, in my late teens and early twenties I wrote poems.  I wouldn't call it Poetry because I really don't know if anyone else would.  But to me it was therapy and a way to express myself.  I loved writing poems.  I haven't written a poem in years and honestly don't know if I could.
The reason I am posting this is because I was looking through the April issue of "The Oprah Magazine" and came across a story and a poem that stopped me in my tracks!  The poem was written by Naomi Shihab Nye.  The short story in "O" was about a woman who encountered very trying times.  She had known about this poem "Kindness" but never really thought much about it until one day when hard times hit she was drawn to this poem.  "Kindness" by Naomi Shihab Nye actually became the prayer that carried her through the days and months to follow!

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
(another talented lady over fifty!)


  1. This poem is magnificent. I always put myself in someone else shoes before I begin to figure our where they are coming from. I try my best to imagine their pain, situation, or simply their lifestyle so I can better understand where they are. ... then it is so much easier for kindness and not judgment to unravel. Not just tip of the iceberg kindness but true empathy that allows us to connect where we may not have been able to before.

    1. Thank you for your comment. It is truly a beautiful poem. One does not have the right to judge someone until they have walked in that person's shoes. Kindness is much more important than judgement. Anonymous I don't know who you are but you write beautifully with such heartfelt meaning.


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