It Is Only Kindness That Makes Sense Anymore



Once again, our country struggles to make sense of a mass shooting. Once again, I fight against a sense of hopelessness and wonder if there's anything I can do -  anything that people like me who don't wield enormous influence or wealth can do - to help bring about meaningful change. And once again, I'm reminded of this poem, written by Naomi Shihab Nye, in 1952. 


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.

Susan Kaiser Greenland