Friday, November 8, 2013


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.
~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~
(Words From Under the Words: Selected Poems)
I have always loved this poem and Nye is one of my favorite poets.  This showed up in my inbox today as did the Gratitude Challenge that I signed up for last month.  For 21 days I will be sent a query about gratitude.  Today's was, "Who has done something for you that you cannot possibly pay back?" 
Every day Peggy calls me to check in.  Every. Single. Day.  Still, even now, eight months later.
Peggy and Micheal dropped everything to be with me after David died.  They held me up when I couldn't even see clearly enough to know I needed holding up. 
Jeannie organized.  Food, housing, hospitality, care.
Candace showed up when I called.  She sat with David as he puked his guts out and I went out for yet another round of medication, in a snow storm, in the middle of the night.  She told me the truth when I asked, when no doctors would. 
A woman from my church brought food, but even more important, she brought me a heart rock from the river by her house.  A heart shaped rock that she had held and prayed with.  I spent many an hour holding that rock to my heart, trying desperately to simply breathe in and out.  It helped.  More than you would imagine. 
The staff at Solace, who honored David in his dying.  Every one of them: doctors, social workers, nurses, housekeepers, volunteers.  Every single one of them. 
The folks at a church in Chapel Hill who sent handmade cards every single week that said, "Be happy, be healthy, be holy."  Those cards still come once a month and they are a joy filled gift for me. I imagine whoever it is who makes and sends them and I am so very very grateful. 
Everyone who showed up. 
I know there are more.  So many more.  In the middle of feeling lost and hopeless lately this challenge came today, along with this poem, and I feel gratitude.  There is no way I can ever repay these gifts.  Some of them because I don't even know the folks who gave them, others because the gifts were so large and big and beautiful that there simply is no way to return them.  But I also know that there will be opportunities to pay the gift offer to others what I have been given.  And that, in itself, is another gift. 
Thank you. 

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