Kindness

by Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952 (an excerpt)

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 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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