Live Virtual Group Session: 2pm EDT June 20th 2020

A combination of new and returning participants, 28 total, joined us today, representing local and international perspectives.

Our text was Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye, posted below, and it was a crowd favorite. Two readers read the poem aloud. One participant pointed out how we experience loss internally in order to find kindness externally. We also noticed the juxtaposition of the images in the poem. Before we can find kindness, you must come to know it through sorrow and loss. Another participant mentioned that the dead Indian in a white poncho could be any of us who could contract/have died of Covid. Someone else mentioned that there is something of a universal and cosmopolitan approach to kindness, to see the cloth like a whole humanity needing kindness right now, beginning from an individual thread of sorrow and leading to kindness. Many readers pointed out the personification of kindness in small actions throughout the poem–tying the shoes (what a difference that can make to someone who can’t tie their own shoes) and gazing at bread (honoring it, knowing that it’s there). There was a consensus that we all need to be more attentive to the isolated acts of kindness in our lives.

Our prompt was “Write about a time that kindness did or did not find you. Five participants shared their writing, inspiring a rich array of responses from the listeners. Several of the stories shared were about “simple” acts of kindness that had lasting, healing effects. Other themes had to do with the power of kindness to unite us with others and with the way kindness can even remake and reshape one’s life. Some participants wrote poems with striking, revelatory metaphors for kindness–a small bird, a white box; others wrote moving stories in which unexpected expressions of kindness helped them recover from trauma.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Please join us for our next session Monday, June 22nd at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!

 by Naomi Shihab Nye

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 a 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 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 gaze at 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.

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. 
Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye.

14 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 2pm EDT June 20th 2020

  1. Cindy

    Sometimes you need loss before kindness becomes clear.
    When the person who embodied kindness leaves this earth, you have to see, the kindness stays here.
    You must see it, hold it, know it, keeping some for yourself and sharing the rest.
    Because kindness is infinite, it can be held by all those who accept it.
    He was a courier of kindness, and, now I must be the one to carry it.
    But, could it be I already am… ?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dr Yewande Okuleye

      “Because kindness is infinite, it can be held by all those who accept it.” Thanks for reminding us of the boundless abundance of kindness. It is so boundless that you note that ” he was a courier of kindness ,and now I must be the one to carry it.” Showing us that this infinite gift can be transferred by the very observation, of the act of kindness. So powerful, and full of hope. Thank you for sharing.


    • Cindy, I hear about the journey of grief tempered by the gift of kindness one leaves behind…that piece of the self that makes the bereaved better and a better person. The piece that fills the gaping hole in one’s heart and lets it heal. I am sure it is carried from the start, but it takes time to realize it and let it settle in. Andre


  2. “A bus full of strangers, a world full of faces,
    clutching his bag he sat in a corner,
    wondering what the first day at school will bring,
    his stomach churned, while he looked out of the window,
    wondering if they knew about his dead mother.
    stepping out, he stumbled, his face almost in the dirt.
    A huge man with a kid stood there,
    with a warm smile,offering his hand.
    Years later, he still stutters talking about the times,
    when he reads a line in some play,
    ‘I have always depended on the kindness of strangers’ “

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dr Yewande Okuleye

      I love the complexity of this multi layered vignette you have drawn for us. You have interwoven so many journeys. It has a compelling visual narrative, with such a filmic sensibility for me. Thank you for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Bee martin

    Invisible ? Or ignored?
    Hurry hurry hurry …….
    The suddenness of the trip
    The sound of breaking and the grating searing pain.
    Once the sharp breath had settled and the curiosity at the experience had settled sheer incredulity takes over the tears
    The drivers drive past
    The shoppers busy with their chat walk past
    Then an unlikely young man says “ are you ok?”

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dr Yewande Okuleye

      “The shoppers busy with their chat walk past
      Then an unlikely young man says “ are you ok?”

      The moment someone stops, to take notice is a powerful act of kindness. It really means they see and just intuit, that we need that human connection in that moment. We remember what that feels like forever. Thanks for sharing.


  4. Janine Mariscotti

    Imagine this:
    I couldn’t imagine that I would have ever wanted to eat again.
    Fourteen days after a ruptured appendix
    Almost dead singing all along
    Amazing Grace how sweet the sound
    I never thought I’d eat again
    Would Never want to
    Certain that no food or drink would ever again appeal to me
    Neither savory nor sweet
    Until I tasted the first spoonful of my neighbor’s
    Soothing chicken soup.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dr Yewande Okuleye

      “Soothing chicken soup”- I love the universality and specificity of this. I hope we have all experienced different types of chicken soup, as we surrender to accepting the gift of sustenance offered through the act of consideration and kindness. Chicken soup teases our taste buds and reawakens our will to strive on. Which I hear pulsating strongly within the verse
      Almost dead singing all along
      Amazing Grace how sweet the sound
      I never thought I’d eat again
      I love how you wove in the Amazing Grace spiritual with the twist in the senses. Here we are not concerned with sight but taste. Thanks for sharing.


  5. al3793


    You are such a seeker of the sorrow-filled.

    I remember the night that Mom died
    you granted me the blessing of helping to bring a new baby
    into the world of a young woman who so much needed to love.

    Just ninety minutes after I last spoke to mom,
    trying to reassure her that her premonition that,
    “it wasn’t going to be a good night,”
    would be something she would get past,

    and just twenty minutes before I learned the news
    I handed to her this child, crying for the mother
    who carried her within for nine months,
    to hold her to her breast.


    Liked by 3 people

    • Dr Yewande Okuleye

      I like how you illustrate how kindness is latent and might need to be activated, by an external prompt which is sorrow filled. You reference to time, grounds us in time which is disorienting. This heightens the preciousness of the moments, and space between the moments. The is a gentleness in this kindness. It feels like it has evolved over time as a considered vision and mission.
      Thanks for sharing.


  6. Dr Yewande Okuleye

    Kindness found me today

    Like a small bird that
    has always been
    on my shoulder
    A flutter in my heart
    A stirring in my soul

    Reminding me that she was always there
    It was I who was not present
    had forgotten the power of kindness

    Kindness is remembering

    In kind ness we connect
    That in kind ness we see ourselves in ‘the other’
    In kindness we can re-make
    That Inkindness we can re-shape

    So today I am reminded that it is OK to be kind
    I must travel with the shadow of my friend
    and together we act as one.

    In courage

    In spite of silence
    In spite of indifference
    In spite of fear

    I rejoice in finding my friend again
    in solidarity
    and in kindness
    we go


    Liked by 2 people

    • al3793

      “In kindness we see ourselves”…YES!

      “In kindness we remake,” reminds me of one of the gifts of narrative medicine: we have the opportunity to revise or start a new sentence or a new chapter and help others do the same through our kindness and “re-presentation.”

      Travelling in the shadow of my friend…” as we write in the shadow of our texts. Some stories revisit us, shadow us, especially stories of kindness.




  7. “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see”~~Mark Twain
    In the times we live in, kindness is a virtue that seemingly is extended too infrequently.

    As a heart patient, I find myself occasionally in the ED to get chest pains checked out. It’s a part of life when that detail has been entered into one’s medical chart.
    Anyways, during a follow-up phone call in regards to an unrelated procedure I had done previously, I was instructed to get myself immediately to the hospital since I was complaining about having some chest pains. “Do not stop, do not pass go”, get myself there now. And so I did.

    I’m not particularly fond of hospitals, I don’t know many who are, so when I arrived at the ED my blood pressure was sky-rocketing and along with my history, red flags were flying. I was given a room in the cardiac care section of the ED. Plugged into monitors, blood is drawn, the whole 9 yards! My mind keeps spinning, my blood pressure keeps rising. I’m starting to feel a bit down and hopeless when I look up to see a familiar face, that of my family doc. I asked him what he was doing there, but he didn’t immediately answer and went about the task of checking through my medical chart and verifying the prescribed treatment of care. We spent a bit of time talking about what brought me there and how I was doing in an effort to help lessen the stress of the situation. His presence in my ED room on that given day was an act of kindness on his part – above and beyond his assigned responsibility. I might add that following his visit, my blood pressure started dropping into realistic readings.

    Sometimes kindness is expressed by nothing that is grandiose but by merely lending one’s presence. I will be forever grateful for his support, understanding, and kindness during a time of need.

    Liked by 1 person

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