It is Only Kindness That Ties Your Shoes

When you’re otherwise surrounded by chaos (farm animal puzzles, the ingredients for pesto, various versions of my resume, magazine clip outs of “feelings” and “modes of transportation”), Newton’s Third Law of Motion naturally kicks in and you start making spreadsheets.  Our current Excel manifesto lays out our travel/hosting schedule for the remainder of 2014–and, um, it’s rather full.  Where do Norway and Sweden figure in??  Methinks the fjord cruise will have to wait until the new year (and the dual paycheck).

My other go-to responses under stress are to A) go for a run (thankfully, Simon digs the BOB stroller) or B) pretend I still lug a Jansport full of annotated paperbacks around the 40 Acres under the tutelage of Dr. Betty Sue Flowers (was there ever a more unassuming name for an English professor?) and troll the archives of  I did both today and I stumbled across the gem pasted below, from Naomi Shihab Nye. 

Her reflections on kindness made me take inventory of all the other stuff consuming space in my mind and on my coffee table and, in the wise words of Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins (God bless America…God bless the Internet):


So here’s to the kindness that ties your shoes–may it go everywhere on your travels today, like a shadow or a friend.

Before You Know What Kindness Really Is

–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 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.

Simon and I keep our eyes peeled for kindness on the open road.

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