I’m spending the last afternoon of 2014 doing something I hope to do a lot more of next year – writing.
I’m not making a resolution to write more, mind you, I’m just wishing it so.
Resolutions seem a bit old school these days. Even the sound of the word – resolution – is antiseptic and cold. Besides, couldn’t we all fill our attics – and basements – with empty well intentioned resolutions we’ve abandoned over the years? They’re right over there in the corner with the ThighMaster.
My friend, Amy, had a great status update on Facebook the other day, declaring that she was not making any resolutions but taking a one-word approach to intentions for the new year. Her word for 2015 is health and she hopes to focus on this word every day in some fashion.
Amy is the mother of a two year old so I don’t know how she has time to focus on anything extra but I can already tell by some recent updates that she’s off to a good start.
I’m a big believer in “less is more” so Amy’s post was intriguing to me and I started thinking about what I would want my word to be.
I tried out a few and then very quickly landed on one – kindness.
Just saying it out loud makes me feel better.
And I love how one word can cover so much ground – kindness to others – all others, yes, I suppose even Republicans and Time Warner Cable representatives. Hey, I didn’t say this would be easy.
I’m talking about real kindness – deeper than just helping the old ladies at my church out to their cars on Sunday after service or letting someone into a long line of traffic.
Kindness to my spouse. That one is pretty easy. I mean you really have to almost try to not be kind to someone named Joy who has a smile that could disarm Darth Varder.
Kindness to myself. Gulp. Somehow I think this one is going to be the toughest. Like most folks, I’m quite accomplished at beating myself up. Ironically, over the years, those beat downs have often been about failed resolutions.
I think Amy is on to something here.
And I think kindness has actually been stalking me for awhile. Over a year ago, my wife and I were having a very intense conversation about marriage and what was the most important thing we each wanted in a relationship. We both said, almost simultaneously, kindness.
So it was quite fitting that at our wedding in DC this past May, my best friend, Carla, read one of my favorite poems by Naomi Shihab Nye – “Kindness,” of course. It is an achingly beautiful poem and I hope you will read it at the bottom of this post.
It begins like this: “Before you know what kindness really is you have to lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth.”
I have lost many things over the past several years – things that I loved with my whole heart – and I think I do understand more clearly what kindness is.
Before you know what kindness is as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
I think this goes way beyond “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone” – this is an intentional way of being in the world and it takes a fair amount of courage to embrace it.
I think I’ve often tried to follow kindness in my life but this year, I’m hoping it will follow me so if I happen to stumble, I can just look over my shoulder and know that I’m still on the right path.
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.