Apr 272010


I read a poem the other night that I know is True.

When you were going through the divorce, I spent so many nights furious at God. I quit Him lots of times, Sister. While you were crying yourself to sleep and repeating,“Not my will, but Yours,” I was in bed fiercely whispering, “You can’t help us. You are not helping us. I’m done with you. How could you let this happen to someone so Golden?”

And it just never stopped with all the money, and the waiting, and the constant hurting. It was like suffocating. Every time I looked at your beautiful face and saw how strong and faithful you were trying to be, I was silently cursing. I decided lots of times: You’re not real. Obviously, you’re not real. I must be a damn idiot.

But I think I still believed He was real. Otherwise…who was I talking to?

I just wanted to hurt Him, because He was allowing you to hurt. I felt like He didn’t deserve your devotion. And I wanted Him to understand that while I loved Him, I didn’t love Him more than I love you. If asked to take sides, I wanted Him to know who I’d stand behind. Not that it mattered anymore. What good was my faith if it didn’t protect my Sister, for Christ’s sake?

Please, resist pointing out how ridiculous and wrong the preceding paragraphs are. God, Sister, and I, we understand. We forgive me.

Also, Sister, Him isn’t right. Is there a word that means Him and Her? God is a Him and a Her. I need a word for that.

So I read this poem last week, Sister. And I know it’s True. I’ve read it maybe thirty times more to make sure it’s True. It is. I keep crying about it, so I know it’s True.

Here it is, Sister. This poem is for you. It was all a gift, Sister.

Even now, your life in Africa. It’s a gift from Him to you, not from you to them. God loves us, Sister.

He knows, He always knew, how Golden you are.


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 it till your voice

catches the thread of sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.


Then it is only kindness that makes any 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 to say


It is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you everywhere

like a shadow or a friend.


Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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  19 Responses to “The Great Kindness”

  1. I was thinking Shim, but Herm is good. Real good. Like this post, like you, G.

    Sure gives a girl a lot to think about. I probably spend too much time wondering about the age old question, "Why would something so bad, happen to someone so good?" MK, I loved the advice given to your mom, "Sorrow hollows my cup so that I can hold more joy." I loved the way SouthLakesMom was thinking of the homeless men like 3 and 4 year olds (totally get that) and Miss Molly's explanation of the way God must, "continue to see us as the miracle of life they (Herm) witnessed, full of innocence, free of tarnish and wounds, and beaming with love."

    With lots of love and kindness, Jen

  2. Herm. The word for him and her is "herm"


  3. i love this poem.
    thank you.

  4. Glennon:

    have you ever watched this commercial? It's beautiful.


    i don't know what it is about this commerical: the expressions on the little girl's face, the moment of impact, the slow motion, the music. something just makes me watch it again and again.

  5. " I think if you're paying attention to what's happening, you're probably brokenhearted."

    I have been struggling with how overwhelmed and brokenhearted I feel– not by life in my own little world, which is sunny, bright and nearly perfect. But there are so many other people suffering and I don't know how to hold that in my heart.
    On Friday, I was feeling this way because of a niece and her family and a bunch of others in our extended community, but I kept a cheerful face, because it was my Kindergartener's birthday and I was bringing snack to class. And then, as I was cleaning up to go, the teacher pulled me outside to let me know that one of the children had just lost his father in a motorcycle accident. I spent the afternoon crying for little Vincent and everyone else who was already on my heart. I don't know what to do when I hit this point– distracting myself seems callous, and giving into it leaves me unable to function. Luckily, we had already held my son's birthday party the previous weekend– don't think I could have done it.

    Glennon– one of the first, clearest messages I got from this blog was that we all have our own suffering and that it's not a competition. We just need to tell the truth and be gentle with one another. And try not to be jerks. You are doing everything you described in your comment– You are reaching out. You are finding people in pain and going to them. You are serving and loving and becoming friends with those in need. If you feel called to do that without your trusty laptop, that would be great. But you are already doing all of it.

  6. g,
    cheers to you, this poem and its beautiful truth, and to kindness — whatever bow it might be wrapped in.

    also, cheers to "bay-lations." 😉

  7. This post could not have come at a better time. After a weekend full of continuous disillusionment in the people around us, my husband and I pledged last night to just be kinder in general. Without going into great detail, we experienced meanness and arguments between grown men on the little league field. While out on a date, we witnessed a husband and wife in the midst of a very emotional fight in our nice restaurant, witnessed a lone woman crying at the table over her drinks (for hours), and heard a story about children doing unthinkable and appauling things to another, innocent child. Needless to say, we were a little discouraged by yesterday. While I have not experienced great sorrow in my life, it’s in times like this I see the need to reevaluate. Because am I much better than any of the people that caused the sorrow we were witness to? I am printing this poem and holding it tight as a reminder that it starts with me, the kindness anyway, and I need to be the change, not just wish it. “ I think being brokenhearted is just about staying soft, staying open, staying awake.”

    G- You stated that you just stay home and type, but I truly believe that is what you have been called to do. Your mission field is this blog. Think about how many people your gift has touched just today by posting a poem and making us think. Wouldn’t know what I’d do without you.

  8. This poem makes me think of one of my students. Earlier this year, he was wearing these shoes that were waaay too big for him. I was at Target and picked him up some $11 shoes. I left them on his desk and said we found them here at school. He wore them like they were gold. Another student said to him, "they are not so cool, it's not like they are Jordans." He replied, "they are the coolest shoes I have ever owned because they are new. I have never had new shoes."

  9. True.

  10. Beautiful words. I agree with Jess. Both the post and your response to Carin. I thought the picture might be a yoga pose!! ahahahah!

    SLM, "And who would have ever thought that this would be where he would live at age 50 or so?" I think this is how God looks at all of us. We are His children and He see us as only as a parent could. No matter of age. We will always be His children. Parents continue to see us as the miracle of life they witnessed, full of innocence, free of tarnish and wounds, and beaming with love. Children are children forever to their parents.

    Whenever my sweet brother is hurting or acting out, I find it impossible not to see the image of a darling little boy holding my hand and smiling up at me with all the hope of the entire world in his eyes. It breaks my heart and it mends my heart all at the same time. I see where he started, how he started and it allows me to reach out this same hand 30 years later

  11. just a thought about hardships and struggles – everyone has them – maybe not everyone's seem as dramatic as others. But, if you start comparing your hardships to others, it is easy to become either a martyr (woe is me, my life is so much harder than anyone elses) or you become convinced that you shouldn't be feeling what you're feeling because in comparison to others, you're not really "suffering." An example… a friend who is dealing with secondary infertility has a hard time dealing with her own grief because there are others who 1)haven't yet had any children and 2) have actually lost children.
    I think I'm just saying that suffering is relative and everyone experiences it differently. As long as your heart is open, it will get broken and every time it does you see more of the Kindness everywhere.
    I hope that all made sense – this is kinda the first time I've put my deeper thoughts out there…have a great day Monkees!

  12. Wow, Jess, I suddenly really love you. I had similar thoughts. 😉

    At age 14, my mom was the only witness to her father's death. She struggled for a long time. She told me once, though, that someone gave her words that actually brought comfort: "Sorrow hollows my cup so that I can hold more joy."

    I haven't had very much sorrow in my life, but I know it's coming since it always does. I hope I'll be able to look at it with these 'perspectacles'.


  13. girl, love the poem but actually love your response to Carin even more.

    now, for a bit of levity. when i saw the picture for today's post, my first thought was that you were going to describe how you and Craig had reignited your passion by having 'relations' by the bay.

    oops. my bad :)


  14. This is wonderful, Glennon, and as you said, True.

    The other day as I left the library I saw one of the many homeless men who hang around there (it's next to the shelter). And for the first time in a long time, I had a mental flash to the young boy he must have been at age 3 or 4. They're all so cute at that age, and people must have seen him laughing and playing as children that age do. And who would have ever thought that this would be where he would live at age 50 or so?

    It was a great moment of God giving me His perspectacles for just that moment — to see one of his grown-up, ostensibly broken children as the child he once was.

    If only I could keep those darn perspectacles on – they do slip down off the end of my nose far too often.

  15. Carin- It's such a good question.

    I imagine that God gets to everybody differently, right?

    But I do believe that those who are brokenhearted are close to God. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

    And some actually seek out a broken heart. They read about those who suffer, they reach out. They look for people in pain and go to them. They serve and love and become friends with those in need, and that helps them get their broken heart and their Kindness. I don't…I stay at home and type. But some people do, and I'm thinking about it.

    You know, though, my hunch is that you don't have to do anything dramatic to find your broken heart. I think being brokenhearted is just about staying soft, staying open, staying awake. I think if you're paying attention to what's happening, you're probably brokenhearted.

    And even if it seems that hardship is not happening to us directly, today, we can look around and see that it's happening to our sisters and brothers. and that, actually, means it's happening to us. so maybe being brokenhearted just means understanding that we are all one.

  16. *tears*

  17. For me there is no Him or Her. There is Love. That works for me.

    Thank you for the words of reflection. One question. For some (most) struggles and hardships define who they are and what they have become, they mold and become new beings. For those without these hardships, where do they come in?

    Thank you for making me think, as usual. Love it.

  18. Love. It.

    I will be putting these words in a safe place.


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