Monday 31 July 2017


It's Poetry Monday, and this week's suggested theme is "kindness."

Don't forget to check out Diane's and Delores' blogs for their poems; and feel free to leave a poem of any kind on any topic in the comments section at their blogs or at mine, or on your own (in which case, please leave us a link to your blog in the comments).

Kindness is a wonderful theme, dear to my heart, and I thought I would have no problem coming up with an original piece of writing on the topic.

Hoo boy. I was so very, very wrong. I just couldn't seem to do justice to what I feel is the most important quality - bar none - in a person. My words felt inadequate and weak for such an important concept.

I felt like I had the vocabulary of a five-year-old, when I need the vocabulary of an ancient, wizened, wise person. I admit to being wizened, but one out of three wasn't enough.

I felt like anything I could say was inadequate and repetitious and shallow.

So I did what I generally do when I can't write my own poem; I go looking for what other people have written, using Google search.

I struck it lucky with the following poem. The author is the daughter of an American mother and a Palestinian father. You can read more about her HERE. In the video below the poem, the author explains how she came to write it, which helps to put the piece in context. Even before I heard her story, though, the rich imagery she used appealed to me.

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.

Thanks for reading, my kind friends.

Notes on the video, added August 1, 2017:
The author explains that she wrote the poem after she and her husband - one week into their honeymoon, travelling by bus in South America - were robbed of everything, and one person on that bus was murdered. She was understandably upset, but in the midst of those feelings, the poem came to her "from a female voice" and she wrote it down in pencil in a small notebook, one of the few things she had left. By the time she was finished, she had gathered herself enough to plan how to proceed with no money, passport or belongings. She also says that sometimes a person can write something they believe to be true, and grow into it - that we can write things that we may not understand fully but they can guide us in the future when we go back and read them again. Several times she stresses that she was only a conduit - "a secretary" for the poem - she felt it came to her from somewhere outside of herself.


Elephant's Child said...

This is incredibly beautiful - and painfully true.

River said...

That poem seems very sad to me, although it describes kindness quite well, I don't feel that one needs to have lost something to be able to feel kindness toward or from any other person. I know many people who are simply kind because that is their inborn nature.

only slightly confused said...

So very powerful.

Terry said...

Thanks Jenny,

It was a really good YouTube clip to watch. A good poem to read as well.

baili said...

Beautiful theme my friend Jenny!

loved the poem you selected to share .
you have a loving kind heart and this is huge blessing of Lord!

jenny_o said...

How I wish I could write like this!

jenny_o said...

So many memorable images!

jenny_o said...

Thanks, Terry. I'm glad you watched the video as well as reading the poem. It adds something, to know why and when she wrote it.

jenny_o said...

I'm glad you liked this poem, baili. And I find there are so many kind bloggers, including you - I'm so glad to have found this wonderful community online!

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

That was absolutely beautiful.

jenny_o said...

I'm glad other readers are liking it as much as I did!

37paddington said...

Oh jenny_o, how deeply our world needs exactly this poem. And I need it too, thank you.

Anonymous said...

My rhyming brain has failed me,
No matter how hard I tried.
To compose a poem on kindness,
I have to swallow my pride.

I'll try again tomorrow,
My head is buzzing like a bee.
A good nights sleep will sort it out,
It won't get the better of me. (Hopefully)

Joan (Devon)

Diane Stringam Tolley said...

Beautiful poem, Jenny! So powerful. Why is it we need to experience the depths before we appreciate the light? Thank you so much for sharing!

e said...

Beautiful and a personal favorite...As someone with a "kind" nature who has been through a lot, I find as I age that I am far less trusting which is another type of loss.

dinthebeast said...

OK, thank you for that poem and video, and Briana thanks you for them.
Sometimes kindness is the only thing that works, and sometimes it's all you have to make it through.
It can often be found in unlikely places, and for some reason those seem more moving than the general, everyday kindness, which, let's face it, makes the world go round.
Where would any of us be without kindness?

-Doug in Oakland

Martha said...

This is very touching. I felt my heart being squeezed as I read that poem. Although I don't think all people need to lose something - or suffer something - to grow kinder, I do believe that certain experiences, particularly those that have caused us pain or discomfort, teach - and amplify, for those who already live it - empathy.

jenny_o said...

River, I've revised my first reply, as I was in a hurry when I wrote it and didn't express myself well. Here is what I was trying to say:

I thought the same thing when I first read the poem, that many people are kind because that is just their nature. However, for many people, even those who are kind by nature, kindness and empathy become understood, or more keenly understood, after a loss. Hope that makes more sense :)

jenny_o said...

I have read several poems you have posted that have affected me the same way, and I thank you for those. We will always need the beauty of well crafted writing.

jenny_o said...

Well done in any case, Joan :) If you come up with something, make sure to come back and post it!

jenny_o said...

I don't know, but it seems it is often that way. I'm happy you enjoyed it :)

jenny_o said...

Very true. Have you noticed whether you feel sincere kindnesses more keenly, now that you have lost a lot of that trust in others? Or do you have a hard time knowing what is sincere and what isn't? In any case, the loss has to hurt.

jenny_o said...

You're both very welcome. I'm happy I found it too.

Your comment is very close to being a poem ...

jenny_o said...

Yes, exactly! Well said.

River said...

Yes, thank you.

John M said...

She turned a terrible experience into something meaningful.

Steve Reed said...

The head of school where we work often employs her motto: "Be kind, be kind, be kind." I try very hard to remember that when I'm dealing with forgetful students. :)

jenny_o said...

What a perfect motto for school, or any workplace, for that matter. But especially school, where you are shaping young lives all the time.

jenny_o said...

That's true, and I hadn't thought of it that way before you pointed it out.

jenny_o said...


Diane Henders said...

A wonderful theme; and a wonderful poem. You're right; it's only after experiencing darkness that we truly treasure the light. :-)

jenny_o said...

Yorkshire Pudding has posted a poem, "Passchendaele", on his blog this week. With his permission, I give you the link, and it's well worth reading:

SHON said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing.

jenny_o said...

It seems so!

jenny_o said...

Thanks for coming by!