Kindness

The older I am the more sure I am that kindness is key to a happy life: kindness to self, kindness to others, to see and to listen with kindness, to practise kindness daily.

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Kindness

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 the white poncho

lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he 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,

and only kindness ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,

only kindness that raises it 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.

Naomi Shihab Ny

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