20 January 2014

Kindness: My Word for 2014

Prompted by Facebook posts of some friends from student days, I decided to choose a word to take into my heart in a new way this year. One of them chose thankful, another chose explore, while a third picked liberality--all good words, all rich concepts.

I chose kindness.

I chose it because sometimes I have trouble feeling it and living it, and yet I believe it has the potential to solve a great many of the world's ills. That is, if we come to understand what it really is. Because I believe it's more than common courtesy and good manners, though both of those are lacking in our world and could go a long way toward improving things. Perhaps manners are a cousin of kindness, but what I'm searching for is a path of response that changes outcomes, without being dishonest or faked or a kind of candymaking, that registers as kindness.

So please join me in the coming months as I catalog, ponder, collect and wonder over kindness. I hope to write also about other topics on my blog this year, but I will mark all the kindness posts with the word magnet photo at right and compile them in a special post link on the sidebar.

That way you can take a single dose of kindness or a mega-dose, depending on what you feel you need at any particular time in your life. Some of the posts may be orderly and well-thought-out, while others may be chaotic and random (just thought I'd warn you).

So stay tuned and send me (email, Facebook message or use the comment form here) your thoughts and stories, any quotes you come across about kindness, any suggested readings that further illuminate the concept. I leave you with this one that started it all--a poem, of course. A good friend left this for me to find on my coffee table one day after writing group. Or maybe it was tucked in her notebook and simply fell out. Either way, it was an unexpected experience of kindness that will always stay with me, so thank you, Sandra Gutridge Harris...

Kindness 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 any 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.