Posts Tagged ‘kindness’

how completely the love of others
has made me who I am. How the work
of their hands is more me
than the swirls of my own fingerprints.
I am the project of love,
the product of compassion,
the sum total of kindness
and sympathy. Of course,
the cruelty, too. Of course,
the ugliness, the shame.
But it is love that rises in me,
like yeast in the living bread.
It is love I’ve received
that stands when I stand,
love that responds
when you say my name.


Friends, I have to tell you I went to the most powerful poetry reading today. Organized by a local high school girl, there were high school girls, teachers and community members who read in support of Shatter the Silence. Poems by Joy Harjo, Maya Angelou, Audrey Lorde, Ani deFranco, Marge Piercy and more … and it was so deeply moving to see the courage, the engagement, the support for each other. Conversations are happening now I never dreamt could happen–about empowerment, deep listening, meeting what is painful and celebrating what is good. There is support in the school from teachers and administration to have these conversations. It was absolutely heart-opening and soul nourishing and I am so amazed by this generation of young women. Change is happening, real, beautiful, just, fierce, loving change. 

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Thank you for the pep talk.
When your teacher asked you
to record messages in the phone,
you could not have known
one day your innocent words
would reach this woman in Colorado
and I would sit in my car
and stare at a mountain and press 4
to listen to children laughing
and press 3 to hear a room full of kindergarteners
shouting YOU CAN DO IT,
and it would make me weep.
I imagine you do not yet understand
how something so beautiful
could make a person sob—
a complex, but very real emotion
we don’t have a word for in English.
But perhaps you are already learning
of the ripple effect: How kindness
brings hope. How hope opens us.
How being open can make people cry.
My friend Paula explained it to me this way.
That’s what friends do—
they share the truth with you.
Oh, young friends I have never met,
I thank you for the ripple,
for the way it has recharged in me a tide
so deep that currents leak out.
Thank you for restoring the great inner ocean
that sometimes turns desert, goes dry.
Thank you for reminding me,
pwease, do something you wike,
something that inspiwes you.
I remember now. Oh bless these salty tears.
I remember.


If you, too, could use a pep talk, or even if you don’t need one, call anyway: 707-873-7862

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I want to go back in years
and find my grandmother Rose
when she is living in Illinois
with my grandfather,
a cruel and angry man.
I want to meet her
on a cold snowy day
when the world feels small
and she feels smaller,
and I want to serve her
a bowl of ripe mango
with a squeeze of lime.
I would love to see her face
when she tasted it—
the orange flesh
that sings of sunshine,
warmth, and the far away.
Would she love it
the way I do this morning,
astonished by the goodness
that exists in the world?
Would she thrill,
as I do, in the surprise
of being served?
As it is, I delight in sitting
on a deep red couch with my friend,
sighing as we slip the soft cubes
into our mouths,
making lists of people
we long to feed mango—
like Beethoven, like Etty Hillesum,
like my grandmother,
who likely never tasted
a mango, my grandmother,
who knew so little of kindness.
Over sixty years later,
I long to serve her mango
to make her feel seen,
cared for, special,
astonished by the sweetness
of the world.

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Big Lesson

Today it feels so simple:
we are here to take care of each other.
How could we ever forget?
As if soil could forget
it is here to feed the trees.
As if trees could forget
they are here to feed the soil.
How could anything
ever get in the way of generosity?
How could we ever greet each other
with any words besides,
How can I help you?
As if light could forget
it is here to help illuminate.
As if dark could forget
it is here to help us heal.

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Piercing the softest sweater I own
are dozens of thin black seeds,
needle-sharp and needle-stiff.
Their purpose: to spread.
They prick, they lance, they jab, they spear.
They refuse to be ignored.
It took only seconds for them to attach,
but to extricate them?
Today, again, I was reminded
how I do not wish
to be a carrier of sharp things.
I do not wish to sow what is prickly,
do not want to propagate
what might bring pain to someone else.
The world continues to teach me,
Be soft. Spread kindness, only kindness.
That is the voice I most wish to hear.
I pull the dark seeds from the fabric.
I place them where they will never take root.
The night air kisses my skin where they were.

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Sometimes even a small sweetness—
a kind word, a kind act—

is robust enough to take root,
and though its perfume soon fades

and its petals wither,
the roots persist so years later

when you least expect it,
there in a forgotten field,

or perhaps in your own well-tended yard,
you catch the scent of sweetness

and follow it until you find again
the fragrant bloom of it, not at all

diminished by time. No, maybe sweeter
because it was forgotten.

Sweeter because with roots like that,
you now trust it will come back again.

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Somewhere I’ve never been
reaches across the ocean
and wrenches my thoughts.
I don’t try to push it away.
I let the ache in,
let sorrow do its terrible
work. It slices in
deeper than I want it to,
but I do not resist.
All day I think of the small child
being pulled from the rubble.
All day I think of the many hands
reaching for small frightened body.
All day, I am softened by
grief, ravaged into tenderness.

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Small Things

Small things aren’t just important,

says my father. They’re everything.

And I think of how,

night after night, he’d lie

on his back on the floor

and bench press me

as I stood with one foot

in each of his hands.

Years later, every morning

he’d lift me with a phone call—

This is the Broadmoor. This is your

morning wake up call.

He’d say it in his snootiest,

haughtiest British butler voice.

And years later,

when we hold hands

he rubs his thumb across my thumb,

a small, familiar gesture of love.

Now, wishing I could hold

his hand while we sit

in different rooms together

a thousand miles away,

I can almost feel

the pad of his thumb

move across my knuckles

the way wind moves over water

and creates the weather.

It lifts me.

It’s everything.

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Kindness went out and got itself

a new engine—a four-hundred horsepower

twin turbo 3.3 liter V-6 engine.

Something with real oomph.

Something that provides a bit of giddy-up

when the loving gets tough. Turns out

kindness likes horsepower.

A lot of horsepower. Plus it sprung

for direct fuel injection to maximize

its power output. Everyone thinks

kindness prefers things quiet and calm,

but kindness is ready for action—

ready to take on the world,

ready to travel every back road,

every highway, every main street

and get this ever-loving show on the road.

There’s a whole lot of loving to do.

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And if today we speak at all,

let us speak in golden leaf.

Let’s converse in low clear stream,

whisper in rose-hip pink.

And if we speak at all today,

let’s slip mulch between each word,

aware that what we say will grow—

how powerful the words we sow.

And if we speak at all,

let’s speak in mountain, speak in field,

speak only words that lift and heal,

speak only words that lift and heal.

And if we speak,

let’s listen for the quiet in between—

plant tulip bulbs in the silences.

And crocuses. And grace.

And any words with thorns in them,

let’s set them down. Let’s lose them.

And if our words don’t open like sky,

let’s let the sky do all the talking.

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