Earlier this week at work I was struck with sorrow for a co-worker who had experienced a traumatic death in her family, someone very close to her. Her world was falling apart, yet she showed up to work because that is what she had to do. Did we embrace her with gentle, loving kindness? We who work with children who have experienced trauma, did we embrace this co-worker who was in our midst drowning trying to stay afloat and manage the details of her life while showing up for work? No. We didn’t. We failed to support her through the chaos of her life. Sure we signed a card for her and said, “we’re sorry for your loss.” But we expected her to follow all the rules the next day. Act normal. We thought to ourselves, “what do you mean you have to take care of personal things during work hours? What do you mean you can’t keep it together and not cry?” I wonder, if we can’t break the rules sometimes to be kind, we who experience trauma everyday through the eyes of our clients, who can? And where will there be kindness in the world if we who are helpers can’t even muster the ability to do it? And then I heard this poem on an OnBeing podcast by Naomi Shihab Nye and found hope again. Because kindness begins with you and me.
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 gaze at 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.
–by Naomi Shihab Nye