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.
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.