It’s been a tough two weeks here in my fuzzy neither-here-nor-there State of Separation. I’ve been dwelling on how much I’ve lost. How my children will have to leave their beloved school. We’ll have to leave our little city home. We have debt instead of savings. We own an about-to-mature home equity line of credit instead of college savings accounts.
My hopes and dreams for our future have slipped through my fingers, so quickly. They’re like the magic tiny, green glowing crocodile tongues in the children’s book James and the Giant Peach. You stumble, they crash to the ground, and they crawl away from you before you realize what’s happened.
At first you deny they’re gone. And then it’s just too late. You’re just left scrambling around on the ground, grasping at nothing.
I logged on to Facebook to distract myself from these thoughts. And there, at the top of my page, someone had posted a beautiful poem titled “Kindness.” It’s a bit of grace that was sent my way at just the right moment.
And then my cell phone started buzzing. A text had come in. It was an old acquaintance, telling me that his father had offered to talk to me, give me career advice, and help me re-build my writing and editing portfolio.
And then I looked at my email, and an old colleague is sending offers to help too.
I thought of James and the tiny green glowing crocodile tongues. They did slip through his fingers, but then they funneled into the ground. And suddenly the old barren peach tree begins to blossom. A magic peach grows larger and larger and larger – until it rolls away and takes James on an unexpected and grand adventure.
The key to these moments of grace is to be open and ready at any time. They are unpredictable, but they seem to arrive just when things seem darkest. We just have to continue to believe that love and light and hope and help are just around the corner.
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. —Naomi Shihab Nye