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I had had the good fortune to do several of those things which I wanted to/ loved to do. Travel was one of them. I could travel not only to many countries but highly variable ones. From the most developed US and Europe to least developed nations in some parts of Africa, and all the shades in between. I met a lot of people, many of them simply wonderful. Most of all, I have received a huge amount of Kindness from so many, and many times more than what I have given in my entire life.
I have experienced a lot of kindness among so-called poor people. People with no material riches are extremely rich in mind and heart. And I have always wondered how. How can they offer half of the already half loaf they have? They are already hungry, and that half loaf is not even enough for them. And they do not worry what will happen to them? And they worry more about the other person?
We see different behaviors around us. In Pakistan, we see pleasant and unpleasant things, but we have come to believe that Pakistanis largely are dishonest, corrupt, unkind, selfish and apathic. There is a lot of evidence that supports this thinking. Personally, I have met and keep meeting a lot of good people who do good just for the sake of doing good. I tell others also when I have a pleasant encounter, and I prefer to keep to myself if I have an unpleasant one, unless I wish to warn others about something.
Understanding Kindness, Appreciating Kindness and Practicing Kindness are all different, and require different mindsets.
Appreciating Kindness is the easiest. It is like appreciating any good thing or any good behavior or any good gesture. It is a courtesy actually.
Understanding Kindness is complex. It requires empathy and compassion, the ability to be ‘in their shoes’, and the capacity for resilience.
Practicing Kindness is tough. It takes a lot of courage and moral strength to be Kind even when others may not be kind.
“Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness” wrote Leo Tolstoy.
“Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you are already in heaven now” wrote Jack Kerouac to his lifelong friend.
These are great sayings but practically, we keep becoming ill-tempered easily, we become unkind quickly and we rationalize it logically.
It is therefore in order to read this out-of-this-world poem by Naomi Shihab Nye and see how much labor goes into Kindness.
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 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.
I really have nothing more to add, except that please read this poem many times to feel the sentiment fully.
May we all learn to practice Kindness with everyone, every time, everywhere.
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