An Understanding of Kindness
Not that long before he died, Seamus Heaney was asked at the end of an interview if he had any wise words of advice to offer to the world. The interviewer must have waited in some considerable state of excited anticipation for the great man's answer, an answer which would inevitably be discussed and dissected eagerly in academic circles world-wide; picked and pored over by eminent scholars for decades, at least. After all, this man was a world-famous poet, a deep thinker, a man of extraordinary learning, a Nobel Laureate.
Heaney's answer was quiet and unadorned: "We should be kind to one another."
‘Well', you might think, ‘that's simple enough to understand. Don't we all know how to be kind to one another! Don't we all know what kindness is!'
But do we? Do we know what kindness really is?
A powerful poem by another poet, Naomi Shihabo Nye, takes us to the compassionate, empathic heart of kindness:
"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."
And further on in the poem Nye says:
"Before you know kindness as the
deepest thing inside
you must know sorrow as the other
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."
Kindness can only be understood and fully appreciated if we know what it is to be vulnerable: to be painfully aware of the ephemerality of all earthly things; to know the shocking reality of loss, of grief; to be on intimate terms with sorrow. Then, and only then, do we understand kindness as the only thing that makes sense.
"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."
Richard Rohr reminds us that it was not zealotry nor righteous indignation, but ‘deep sympathy for the human condition' which drew Jesus into a ministry of healing and forgiveness. A ministry of kindness.
19th January 2018 An Understanding of Kindness
14th December 2017 Do You See This Woman?
17th October 2017 We Are All One with You
7th September 2017 Gaps
20th June 2017 "Love is not loved."
25th April 2017 I Hope You Dance
21st March 2017 From Darkness to Dawn
27th October 2016 The Bright Field
27th June 2016 The Enemy Within
31st May 2016 The Little Way to The Almighty
25th January 2016 Love Immeasurable
11th November 2015 Letting Go
21st May 2015 The Gift of Loss
6th May 2015 Walls
24th November 2014 Leaning into Winter
24th October 2014 Crossing the Road
25th June 2014 Fetters of the Soul
30th April 2014 The Power of Gratitude
10th March 2014 The Darkling Thrush
11th February 2014 Spring
10th February 2014 Masks
3rd February 2014 Dancing in the Wind
21st January 2014 Chains of nostalgia
13th January 2014 Forgiving wrongs darker than death or night
7th January 2014 Singing out Loud
17th December 2013 CHRISTMAS FOUND
9th December 2013 Withering into the Truth
2nd December 2013 The Celtic Prayer Garden
25th November 2013 Missing Dates
18th November 2013 NEARER GOD’S HEART
12th November 2013 Night
27th April 2010 Healing God
25th November 2009 Our Poverty
1st September 2009 Which of the two tigers will win the fight?
1st June 2009 Be your own role model
25th May 2009 The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord
18th May 2009 Power of the real presence
7th May 2009 "Lessons I did not learn in School" - by Bill Gates
20th April 2009 JESUS RISES FROM THE DEAD
30th March 2009 The Long Walk to Freedom
23rd March 2009 Become a Friend
16th March 2009 Ireland in Identity Crisis?
9th March 2009 Love to Pray
2nd March 2009 Life - Giving Words
16th February 2009 Exclusion Policy
9th February 2009 Somewhere the Child
2nd February 2009 The Conversion of St Paul
12th January 2009 Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"
22nd December 2008 A Christmas Parable by Louis Cassels
15th December 2008 Work – from In the heart of the Temple by Sr Joan Chittister
8th December 2008 Am I at home when the doorbell rings?
1st December 2008 Street Corner Christ
17th November 2008 How Did I Get This Busy?
10th November 2008 A Homily for The Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica – 9th November 2008
3rd November 2008 John O’Donohue taken from “Benedictus - A Book of Blessings”
27th October 2008 Charles Peguy 1873-1914, French poet and politician
20th October 2008 The following is an extract from a talk given by Bishop George Lungu of Chipata in Zambia in Africa, to the synod of Bishops being held in Rome this month.
13th October 2008 Excerpt from ‘A Door of Hope’ by Jean Vanier
6th October 2008 A Reflection on Matthew's Gospel 21:28-32
29th September 2008 The Daily Decalogue of Pope John XXIII