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 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.


  1. Thanks for the beautiful poem.

  2. like a shadow, or a friend, or a favourite blanket...
    thank you for that lovely piece of writing

  3. Beautiful.
    I love the images in this poem...and also the interchangeability of lives expressed in stanza two.

  4. Before you know what kindness really is
    you must lose things,
    feel the future dissolve in a moment
    like salt in a weakened broth.

    Simply put, but oh how true. This is beautiful and speaks to me. Thanks.

  5. That is one of the most outstanding things I have ever read, and it touched me deeply, thank you so much for sharing with us.
    xxx Starry

  6. Wow, such a fitting piece of work for this time we are in. And for me, I felt this deeply. Loved it, thak you for sharing. This may become a new favorite.

  7. I know you don't think disabling comments will stop me. What happened in your town is heart wrenching, and perhaps what led you to this post too. My heart goes out to that family, and the community, and to you too. I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart for such a horrible loss.

  8. It's a classic piece of writing. I found it incisively meaningful.

  9. The poet knows does your hometown....and from that sorrow comes the prayer for kindness. I watched the video of the memorial service and I ache for the family and your community.

  10. Thank you. I needed to read this right now. It couldn't have come at a more suitable time.

  11. this is an awesome peace of writing related to kindness.. thank you for sharing it with us.

  12. This post is so connected to the last one; it is a true comment on life. I am so sorry about the tragedy in your community.

    That which lets us feel the pain also gives us the ability to see the incredible beauty on this planet.

  13. Kindess is next to cleanliness which is next to my pants draped over that chair.

  14. MY Goodness! You find beautiful beautiful poems!!

  15. I love it! A very moving piece!

  16. I've heard her read it out loud, and it only gets better. If you ever have the opportunity of hearing her read, I suggest you make the effort.
    She'll make your trip worth it.

  17. it was very enlightening....beautiful work indeed


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