During a recent retreat at Gunung Jerai, our Retreat Leader introduced us to a lovely poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. I found this same poem on the Poets.org website where it’s reprinted with the poet’s permission. I would like share parts of this poem here:
… Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth….
… 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 everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
When I read these words, I felt enormous compassion for the person who was indifferent to my sorrow when Ladoo died. I see now that this person hasn’t suffered the same sorrow and it was remiss of me to expect comfort from him. I closed the manual given to us during the retreat with this prayer: when the time comes and the pets die, I pray that when he seeks comfort during the ensuing times of sorrow, he will receive it and not indifference, instead. If I am the friend he turns to, I promise to be kind and not turn him away as I previously imagined I would.
By Aneeta Sundararaj