Sunday I took a friend to the ER, and in her room, they had a print of a lilac bush, with the quote, "Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness." It's attributed to Lucius Annaeus Seneca who lived 5 AD to 65 BC. Evidently there was a need for kindness then also.
I thought that the ER room was apropos for this saying, as generally, one does receive much kindness in this often harried but caring setting. It's hard to ignore any acts of kindness that come our way in our current tumultuous state--so often like we are being bombarded with hate-driven rhetoric.
The need for kindness was driven home even more so when I had windows installed yesterday, and I sat in my office all day listening to a man berating the younger "helper" he was working with. I don't know how long they have been working together--maybe not long--but if the younger man was in training, then as a long-time teacher and as a human being, I was appalled with the strategies the "teacher" of the pair employed. Though it was clear that the older man knew the dangers of installing windows on the second floor of a building, the NOs that got shouted, the "You have to pay attention," the "What are you doing?," the "What did I tell you?," and the stinging dart of "Are you a moron?" certainly were devoid of ANY kindness whatsoever. I never witnessed the young man do anything but try to understand or please. On my worst day of teaching, I would not have spoken to a student in that way. I was so surprised that the young man did not WALK or TALK BACK. I felt later that I should have found a way to say something to both men. Surely there was another way to show concern and teach, to communicate instructions and warnings that did not rely on ridicule. Personally, I was very undone by the barrage of vitriol that went on all day long!
I can't help but think about the children being detained, separated from their parents--being held in cages. An abomination. No matter whose rulebook we use. Kindness may seem like a "weak" word to combat hate, but it may be the strongest impetus, the best tool or weapon we've got.
I went looking for a poem this morning.
I simply share this with you.
BY YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA
For Carol Rigolot
When deeds splay before us
precious as gold & unused chances
stripped from the whine-bone,
we know the moment kindheartedness
walks in. Each praise be
echoes us back as the years uncount
themselves, eating salt. Though blood
first shaped us on the climbing wheel,
the human mind lit by the savanna’s
ice star & thistle rose,
your knowing gaze enters a room
& opens the day,
saying we were made for fun.
Even the bedazzled brute knows
when sunlight falls through leaves
across honed knives on the table.
If we can see it push shadows
aside, growing closer, are we less
broken? A barometer, temperature
gauge, a ruler in minus fractions
& pedigrees, a thingmajig,
a probe with an all-seeing eye,
what do we need to measure
kindness, every unheld breath,
every unkind leapyear?
Sometimes a sober voice is enough
to calm the waters & drive away
the false witnesses, saying, Look,
here are the broken treaties Beauty
brought to us earthbound sentinels.
Link to source and audio recording: www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/41786/kindness-56d22013a8d03
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