If you haven't already seen it, please visit my guest post over at Slow Your Home.  Brooke was very generous to allow me to write for her wonderful blog

There is absolutely nothing that I can add to this beautiful poem.  Please share if you enjoy 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 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.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Zen Presence - minimalism, simplicity, self improvement, simple living, Zen in modern life.


  1. Beautiful poem. There really is nothing stronger than empathy, is there?

  2. It is so true... if you can't image someone in pain being you, you can't understand and really care. It really bothers me when people say everyone can take care of themselves all the time, "I have." Well, I hope the day doesn't come that they have to eat their words.

  3. So true. It's hard to know what "happiness" and "prosperity" are unless you've experienced "unhappiness" and "loss".

  4. Beautiful poem and very poignant.

  5. This reminded me of the Dalai Lama saying that his religion is kindness. The kindness described in this poem is much like compassion. And so true that when our hearts are open, then we feel all feelings, sorrow along with joy. Lovely poem.

  6. I love this poem and this insight. Sorrow binds us in such a powerful way, showing how we are all fundamentally the same. It is from this realization that true kindness and compassion can arise.