Kindness and Saying “No More”

Early this morning, I read the poem, Kindness, and it cracked my troubled heart open. I wept. It is an unflinching and powerful poem that doesn’t look away from suffering. The kindness the author Naomi Shihab Nye advocates doesn’t preclude standing up and saying, “no more, this has to stop.” Dr. Martin Luther King, said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” His advocacy of love and non violence in the face of hatred never stopped him from protesting, speaking out and doing everything in his power to end oppression and racism.

Kindness allows my heart to break open and stay present in the midst of otherwise unbearable suffering. It allows me to touch the center of my own pain and the pain of the world, no matter how difficult, to not give up, to not turn away.

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 gaze at 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.

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