Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things… Naomi Shihab Nye
Poet Naomi Shihab Nye and her husband were on honeymoon in rural Peru when their bus broke down and all of their belongings were stolen. They lost everything except the clothes they were wearing and a few bucks, certainly not enough to last long in a foreign country.
Because of the kindness of strangers (poor ones) they were able to continue on their journey. This story was the inspiration for Nye’s most famous poem, Kindness. The magnificent first line, “Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things,” tells a truth that resonates deeply with almost everyone that reads it.
You know what it is like to lose something really important to you only to discover another person who, out of pure kindness, helps you put your loss aright. It is times like these that kindness becomes an entirely new reality.
I was essentially homeless until I was almost eight years old. Oh, I lived in houses but they were the homes of relatives who gave me a bed and some food. My mother couldn’t (or wouldn’t) care for me and my divorced father drank a quart of liquor daily. I knew nothing of love and security, leaving me to conclude I was an unwanted child.
And then Aunt Billie showed up with love. It was the kind of love that changed the life of a seven-year-old boy. It took years but she made me feel wanted and supported and fully accepted. Unparalleled kindness literally saved my life. She and Uncle Jimmie adopted me and took care of me until I left for college on an athletic scholarship. A significant shift from the direction I was headed.
Perhaps that is why I feel so deeply for the poor and disenfranchised, as well as those who have “lost things.” My ultimate goal in life is to help others feel better about themselves. All it takes is a little kindness in times of need. A smile, a nice word, assistance, or in some cases a couple bucks. Mostly it is simply a matter of being nice.
The Bible is a most complicated book with hundreds of stories, poems, proverbs, parables, and wisdom. Attempting to apply all its messages can be quite daunting unless you take to heart the simple words of Jesus who says the whole book can be summed up by two things: Love God and love your neighbor. Since I’m not so sure what “love your neighbor” means I have simplified it by saying “Just Be Nice!”
Just think what life would look like if everyone were nice. Families would stay together, racism would not exist, and hateful acts would disappear. Just as important is when others (friends and strangers) are dealing with hard times you alone could impact the troubles they are facing by simply being nice.
The problem is too many of us have never really experienced enough kindness in our own lives. You are too often forced to deal with loss or sadness without much help. And without regular experiences of kindness you feel alone, unwanted and unloved. Tragic! And it can be so easily remedied with merely a smile and a kind word of support.
Be a Game-Changer
So why not become a game-changer? What if you decided to be the person that placed other’s needs equally as important as your own—or even more important? It is better to give than to receive because when you do you actually receive more in your heart than you ever would by focusing only on taking care of yourself.
Life is difficult and the world can be a lonely place when you have lost something important to you. Hopefully you have felt the wonder of kindness from someone unexpected. And in turn, you will find within you the compassion for another person in your life—someone you feel the need to “just be nice.”
Change the World
Just Be Nice
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