By: Dean Keller
Along life’s way we all seem to gain the experience to see the wisdom in these clear words written by Naomi Shihab Nye in her poem ,“Kindness.”
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.
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 crown 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.
I’ve so often struggled against loss, or rather the fear of loss of one kind or another, yet at the bottom of that deep cold hole, this grace. Finding that, “closer than skin”, connection with others that lies behind words like compassion and kindness is a blessing, like finding a missing piece of oneself.
Everything we hold on to so tightly can be lost; loved ones, careers, homes, our abilities, even our dearly held beliefs and identities. My personal reaction to this fear has often been to clutch even more tightly, or more cleverly to avoid such pain. Then Dr. Phil’s words: “How’s that work’n for you?” Well Dr, it hasn’t worked, it might be fair to say that the tighter the grasp has been, the more painful the loss. As foolish as it seems, I’ve repeated this ineffective behavior many times with similar results.
Going through life with our hands open, accepting what comes, and letting go of what leaves, requires faith, finding a very personal knowing from within ourselves that we are held in each moment in loving hands regardless of how the circumstances appear. Perhaps Saint John of the Cross is right when he answers the question “What is grace?” with the words “All that happens,” and perhaps our own misguided desperate grasping along with the inevitable pain is leading us back to our own true selves.