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Live Stream: Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

Written by Rachael Norris, 6th April 2021

In today's Shared Reading live stream we are reading the poem Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye with West London Hub Leader at The Reader, Erin Carlstrom. As April is both National Poetry Month and Stress Awareness Month, the readings we have chosen to share this month all meet the theme of 'balm for the soul'. We hope you'll think about sharing this poem with someone who might need it today.

 

 

Kindness

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.

by Naomi Shihab Nye

From the collection 'Words Under the Words: Selected Poems' by Naomi Shihab Nye, copyright © 1995. Used with permission of Far Corner Books.

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