Sunday, November 15, 2009

Notes from the Pew

Today's sermon was on kindness. How to be it, how to honor it, and to recognize how crucial it is for one's quote that Reverend Judith said (didn't catch the author): Kindness is treating people for who they are, not who you want them to be.

So, the seed was planted. What are my thoughts on kindness? Who do I treat the way I want them to be, rather than who they are? To my chagrin, quite a few folks. Here are just a couple:

1. My husband-I have made progress meeting him where he is and he certainly tries to do the same for me, perhaps the definition of a successful marriage, but I still wish he was more emotional. I have, to my credit, cut down on the times that I state he has the affect of a post. He has, to his credit, cut down on the times he attributes my mood swings to my monthly cycle or blood sugar fluctuations. All may be true, but not all that is true has to be said.

2. My children- when my son comes to me and says that he wants to learn to play the accordion or the bagpipes, I need to applaud his idiosyncratic taste in music, not envision him being beaten up by a cool saxophone player. He is who he is, not who I want to shape him to be to keep him safe. Blow on my you blow a bagpipe?

3. My friends-I sometimes think many of our friendships are based on mutual projections. The beauty of friends is that crisis, pain, and fear tend to trump any defenses we are wrapped up in. Lately, my friends have seen me in the hospital, in pain, scared to death, and ornery as hell. To my great joy, not a one of them has dropped off. I hope I have the opportunity to repay all their genuine kindness.

I will close with this poem, found in the order of service from The First Parish Church in Northboro Massachusetts on November 15th:


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 know 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 you I have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend. Naomi Shihab Nye


  1. I can actually answer your question about bagpipes...I have an uncle who plays and yes, in fact, one does blow to work a bagpipe.

  2. Would never dream of "dropping" you!
    Love that poem, love that poet.

  3. since when are saxophone players cool? a guitarist maybe ;)
    I have never thought of dropping you either - why would I?????