“Before you know what kindness really is/ you must lose things…”
I set out to write a blog for World Kindness Day and realized all I could do was think about loss.
I have read this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye countless times because she so beautifully captures something – the duality of kindness with sorrow, and so, also the relationship that every individual experience has with its apparent opposite – that I feel all the time but can never understand.
When I was a certain tender age grappling with all the incongruences in the world – all the annoying paradoxes that irritate a mind that prefers this or that – my father would lose patience with me and snap, Get used to it, kid.
But I never really did, until recently. Until I began to understand the beauty of duality – of both. That I can’t think about kindness without feeling sad.
Kindness, according to many sources, is good for us. Good for our health, good for our work, and most desirable when we pick our intimate partners. Some of us can’t really stand it, but we should all at least try and practice a little.
But I think kindness is also important as the antidote to most of what plagues us.
We need kindness because sorrow is all around us. We need kindness because we have all been betrayed, let down, and unappreciated.
We need kindness so we can still understand what George Saunders meant in his famous graduation speech; all the things we think matter, don’t.
In the existential sense, we first have to understand that we are all innocent and guilty. We are all the betrayer and the betrayed. All of us.
And once you can understand this, then you really can know kindness. Once you understand that you are the guilty and the absolved, “Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore”.
Because kindness matters, and it doesn’t. No one is keeping track. Being kind to others may – or may not improve your day. But consider this- what happiness there is in the world is the happiness of the world. There is nothing further to do or to seek. Happiness as an act is complete.
Happiness is also a moment in time. Today, and every day, I wish you a few moments of your own.
Cynthia Ransley, MA (’15) is Communications Coordinator for MSP.