Opening with an admission: I was feeling a tad sorry for myself this morning, blubbering about the nameless something, when I caught myself and was reminded what an incredibly fine life I have. As I walked past the living room window, I noticed that the snow had receded so much that the plastic chicken planter that I had loathed, but somehow had never felt I could remove last summer, was sitting there looking all happy and such, and I burst out laughing at that fool thing, that isn't at all afraid of looking foolish, and learned a bit about kindness in that ridiculously sublime moment.
So I decided to share with you the poem I led off with last night at our poetry reading. But before I do, I have to tell you about this fun little synchronicity that happened. A few days ago, Dr. Seuss popped into my mind and I thought it would be fun to buy several of his books and leave them around to read or invite others to read when they came over.
Many, many years ago, I worked at a shelter for abused women and their children. There were several Dr. Seuss books around so when my friend, Vickie, and I, worked the night shift, we would sometimes pull them out, sit down on the couch side by side like a couple of eight year olds and read them aloud to each other. It often resulted in us falling over in a fit of much-needed laughter. Things can get very emotional and even a little scary at such shelters, so we did what we could to elevate our thought, and perhaps even the mood, the energy, of that sad place.
Last night at the poetry reading, out of the blue, Neighbor Guy and Old Friend said, "We should do a Dr. Seuss night." I got all excited. We would read his books out loud, taking turns reading a page or two of the same book or each reading a smaller book, whatever we could to keep everyone engaged in the fun. Of course, Dr. Seuss isn't just for kids. Like many animated films, there's a subtext that can often be emotional or very political. So we're planning a Dr. Seuss night.
Much synchronicity was popping out of the woodwork, i.e. our mouths and minds, last night, but I will save those for another time. Today, I want to remind myself of the need for kindness, both a willingness to receive it and the desire to share 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 the 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 sorrow
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
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
Or a plastic chicken. I'm looking forward to finding just the right plant to tenderly place inside her kind and loving heart.