Kindness: a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye

I heard this poem at the weekend and wanted to share it with you. It speaks to me in such a profound way. May we all know kindness when we need it.


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
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.

Naomi Shihab Nye


  1. dear Audrey,

    this beautiful poem made me cry with its truth and profundity. and I know exactly what it means to only know what kindness truly is until experiencing devastating loss. thank you for sharing it.

    much love and light to you,


    1. It's a wonderful poem with a deep truth. I understand why it moved you, especially with all your experiences. I hope it brought comfort to you too as it did to me. Love to you. Audrey

  2. Very touching, indeed. Kindness & compassion - they are the black belt skills developed while experiencing hardship. ~Catherine

    1. So true Catherine, sending much love. Audrey

  3. I love this poem so much. It literally stopped me in my tracks the first time i heard it read by someone. I looked it up online and learned it by heart. It is so powerful

    1. The power of the poem to convey what narrative cant. I keep re reading it too.My next blog is less poetic!


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