Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem ‘Kindness’ portrays the abstract feeling in a different light. We live our lives by being kind and by receiving kindness. But, is kindness all elegant, brighter and a beautiful emotion? Brighter the light is, the darker the shadow will be. In the same way, the journey to appreciate kindness is painful.
The first stanza of the poem starts by stating that unless we go through hardships, difficulties and excruciating pain, we can never feel kindness. We should feel our future melting away and dissolving like salt in a broth. We should feel every single block we had built falling apart one by one and should see things go crazy and beyond control. We should be wrecked and hopeless to feel and see kindness between the regions of dreary and forsaken landscape. When life feels needlessly long and dull, when everyone seems to be busy and no one really cares about what happens to us, the relief that rushes over by one extending hand causes kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
To understand how valuable and serious the emotion of kindness is, we must see a man lying dead on the road. We must realise that such a death can occur to us too and we can also be abandoned like that man. We must see how the man was the same breathing living thing with plans and dreams before he could die.
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.
Just as the lines below say, we must wake up everyday heavy with sorrow and talk with it to understand what kindness really is. We should confront our sadness and separate each of its strings and weave it into a sorrowful clothing to see how big our sorrow really is.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
If we do so, then we will see only kindness in every little thing and every little action. It will be kindness which ties our shoes and gives us strength to step into the outside world and do our work. Even among the ocean of bodies and faces, we will spot kindness rising its head and calling to us, “It is I you have been looking for” and following us everywhere “like a shadow or a friend”.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
These lines make us realize how we take kindness for granted most of the time. The kindness of the mother hidden in the packed lunch box, the kindness of the friend embedded in a lent pen, the kindness of a stranger who says ‘Have a beautiful day’ are slept on by us. Our mother might have lost her good sleep to pack lunch, our friend might have not even had a pen to lend or the stranger would have had a really bad morning. Thus kindness comes at a cost. When it comes, learn to appreciate it and give it back.