Before you know what kindness really isyou must lose things,feel the future dissolve in a momentlike salt in a weakened broth.What you held in your hand,what you counted and carefully saved,all this must go so you knowhow desolate the landscape can bebetween the regions of kindness.How you ride and ridethinking the bus will never stop,the passengers eating maize and chickenwill 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 someonewho 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 voicecatches the thread of all sorrowsand you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,only kindness that ties your shoesand sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,only kindness that raises its headfrom the crowd of the world to sayit is I you have been looking for,and then goes with you every wherelike a shadow or a friend. –
Naomi Shihab Nyefrom The Words Under the Words: Selected Poems