Brain Food #609

The purpose of kindness

Thoughts of the day

Good morning, and happy Monday.

Henry James said, “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

James did not use any of these words in his literary opus; he simply spoke them to his nephew.

Being kind does not necessarily mean being nice to others all the time, an innocent choice that can send one on a dangerous course. Being kind means coming from a place of willingness to understand others, to notice when others are in a difficult place, and to offer our help while maintaining our own boundaries, that ‘nice’ may sometimes erase.

Kindness means to be attuned to the emotions of another, and understand that we are all going through the same absurd and often unforgiving world, and the cocktail of chaos and catastrophes that it often serves. Abandoned dogs will often be aggressive even towards those who try to rescue them, until they are treated with kindness. And so, kindness is also to understand that what may seem like an attack may often be a cry for help. A means of being connected to others, through our differing but inevitably overlapping experiences in a shared world.


Kindness
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 gaze at 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.