A few days home from a long trip, and I felt unmoored. No, it wasn’t the jetlag. It was something else. I felt unsettled and longing for something that I couldn’t quite understand. And yes, achingly sad.
The state of affairs here was in major disarray, seemingly even worse than when I had left the country three weeks ago. Facebook was no longer fun. It had become stressful. So much sadness, hatred, and vile everywhere on my feed. I couldn’t bring myself to watch the news. What purpose did that serve — to stew in all that filth? There had to be a better way without completely tuning out and choosing to be apathetic.
It began with the young people, and their fiery hope and idealism for the country. That lit a spark. Thirty years ago, my batchmates and I had come down from that very same hill, to be men and women with (and for) others. It was both hopeful, inspiring and yet bittersweet, to witness it again, a generation later.
I retreated and cocooned myself at home as I often do when I’m weary and need to think things through.
Then out of nowhere, a word kindness came to me. Kindness. Kindness is the light that pierces through the darkest of nights and guides us back home. It begins with kindness to the self, in choosing to find something to be grateful for in each day. Gratitude, after all rewires the brain. And slowly things began to lift.
Yes, rage we must, and we must do it unceasingly, and in peaceful means. We rise above the muck of it all, we choose to focus, we stay the course. But also, we must not let our rage consume us, we must take care of ourselves for the long journey ahead.
Kindness is choosing to be that light, to find ways to respond to needs that are presented to you, and acting on them. It’s fighting for those who cannot speak, it’s found in showing compassion and care to those who are weak, but showing kindness and compassion to oneself too.
Today at dawn, I stumbled upon an interview with the poet Naomi Shihab Nye, “You just need one poem and the right attention for that poem. You read that poem, you hold it in you, you reread it, and you feel like a room that is cleansed and freshened and rearranged, where everything is folded and put away in its proper place. Not all poems are this way, of course; certainly some poems are filled with their own kind of clutter. But to find a poem that harmonizes you, to feel that clarity and know it’s there, it’s available for you and anytime you feel overwhelmed — wow. What could be better?” read this poem, by the inspiring”
I browsed through her poetry and I found this. A poem borne out of an incident where as newly-weds on their honeymoon somewhere in Colombia, Shihab Nye and her husband found themselves victims of a robbery, where they were stripped of everything they had except for the clothes on their backs. Naomi had to be left alone for several days until her husband could find a way to replenish their travel funds.
It was then that this beautiful poem came to her. After writing it, she found the wisdom and the courage to survive, by joining a group of young mendicants who took pity on her when they saw she had nothing. “I only had a tiny pencil and piece of paper when the poem came to me,” she writes, “Kindness saved 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 everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
When it seems like we have lost everything, kindness saves us. Everyday from hereon, choose to do an act of kindness. It doesn’t matter whether it is big or small — it is the light that will lead all of us home — to ourselves, and to each other. ❤️
A blessed weekend to all 🙂