Kindness is Our Superpower

“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.”

-Naomi Shihab Nye

 As I woke this morning with a head full of allergy, I needed this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. As I listened to the news this morning and learned that over 14 million, largely black and brown children have food insecurity due to the effects of COVID, I needed this poem. When I learned that more of California had burned than all the fires in California between 1932 and 1971, I needed this poem.  When I watched a video of our deeply unaware privileged President tell people not to worry about a virus that has killed over 210k Americans since March, I needed this poem. This poem. This promise. This reminder. This reminder that kindness is in me. 

Kindness. Kindness is in me. It’s nothing I’ve lost.  I carry it. I carry it in me. I can share my garden. I can leave flowers for the neighbor. I can donate to “No Kid Hungry.” I can be a witnessing ear to my friend’s woes.  I can say a kind word to a Facebook friend, with whom I don’t agree. I can feed a stray cat, pay for a stranger’s bus fare. I can vote. We are not surrounded by kindness, kindness is in us. It is our superpower. 

I chose kindness. I chose to express my kindness, and so grateful it ties my shoes and sends me out into the day. 

1 comment

  • And I needed both this blog and its accompanying poem.

    mj paulitz

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