Kindness (Naomi Shihab Nye)

Kindness (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 every where

like a shadow or a friend.

by Naomi Shihab Nye
illustration by Corrie Haffly

There is so much unkindness. So much selfishness in the world. And sometimes, in stark contrast, we see hands of kindness. Our church has been praying for and trying to think of ways to show kindness to Syrian refugees half way across the world, and yet still our brothers and sisters (these images of Syrian refugee children sleeping , for example). When Corrie suggested drawing Syrian refugees for this poem, I knew immediately it was perfect.

Christianity includes all y’all, from Syria to Egypt to Texas

I’m honored to be over at Think Christian today; a fantastic website with loads of thought-provoking articles. I encourage you to click around!

Of all the unlikely places in the world, I first heard the phrase “all y’all” in a small classroom at the southern tip of Africa.

We were novice, New Testament Greek students, trying our hand at deciphering Koine phrases into workable English. We got stuck on the pronoun “humin.” In our English Bibles, we read it as “you,” but “you” wasn’t the best translation. “Humin” is a plural pronoun, the second-person cousin to “we” and “our.” All we had were “you” and its first-person cousins “I” and “me.”

“What we need,” our seminary professor said, “is to borrow a little from the American South. They have a way of expressing ‘you’ plural: ‘all y’all.’” Keep reading here….</em>