Only Kindness: “It Is I You Have Been Looking For”

“Sister Sunflowers,” Card made by Debra D.

I had a hurtful unkindness earlier this week, a cruel one if I look at it closely. Emotionally exhausted and just plain weary of all the unkindnesses of life,  I was on the verge of giving in to the hurt and letting it win. But the God who heals me reminded me of all the beautiful people who shower me with love and kindness

My kindness jar truly overflows.

It’s strange, I guess, but I should be grateful for the unkindness. Such seemingly unnecessary hurts are indeed necessary because they reinforce the importance of compassion and deepen the experience with kindness. 

One of my favorite “kindness” poems, written by Naomi Shihab Nye, underscores the work that must be done before we “know what kindness really is.”  Though the initial landscape is bleak, eventually, we’ll learn to recognize in kindness the friend or shadow who accompanies us everywhere.


Kindness 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 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 every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Note about the image: One of my Love Notes friends, Debra D, kindly sent the card above to me as a “just because.” She filled the card with sheets of bright sunflower stickers. Through the card she honors my love for sunflowers and my relationship with my sister Lori. Isn’t there a purple sunflower somewhere? Debra makes the sweetest cards with markers, stickers, stamps, and various types of paper. You can find more of her “creative doings” on her blog, Meticulosity.

You can read about Nye’s experience which led to the poem in an interview here: The Incomparable Naomi Shihab Nye on Kindness.

18 thoughts on “Only Kindness: “It Is I You Have Been Looking For”

  1. Sheila Delgado says:

    Where is this person, so I can stomp on their toes and kick them in the shins?! (First thought, 5 year old me.) Sending LOVE and HUGS, and gratefulness for your profound and extensive knowledge of all things words. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this poem. Passing it on to a friend. (And there are a few others I know it will add Joy to, but they follow you too. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Janet from FL says:

    Oh yeah I have been in the desert when I remember the cool drink of water some kind person gave me once in an encouraging hug and “hello, nice to see you”… Kindness lasts forever if we stop to remember… So glad you remembered the kindness!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lisa says:

    A sweet act of kindness, just when you needed it..There are those times when I see and feel more warmth and friendship from my pen pals than I do from my in real life friends/ family….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. godtisx says:

    Unkindness is a symptom of inner ugliness, honestly. It helps to remember this when it rears it’s head in a person.

    “Unkindness comes from an ugly soul.” Doesn’t mean you condemn them, but it it’s worth recognizing and acknowledging.

    Sorry you went through this….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chandra Lynn says:

      Sometimes, the unkindness comes from a hurt place. Either way, I’ve forgiven and moved on. We experience little slights and unkindnesses almost daily. They can catch us off-guard at times and I think that’s when we’re tempted to react. Thanks for your heart. I hope you’re well!


  5. Natasha says:

    First of all, yes, where is that “Purple” sunflower? 🙂 I would love one too.

    Thank you for this post Chandra. Can I call you Lynn, instead? I have always wondered is Chandra your last name and Lynn your first. In many parts of our Indian culture people write their last name, before their first.

    I’ve been battered too by unkindness in the recent past, and I’m so glad this post has come to me as a reminder to keep that chin held high. After all, the unkindness that people throw at others is just an offshoot of their own insecurities and pain. I read a Buddhist quote somewhere which tells us to “not accept that unkindness” and be unmoved by it. After all those are not our emotions. Though easier said than done, but the idea is to become apathetic towards such negative emotions.

    If someone slanders me, the best I can do to protect myself is to be nonchalant about it and move on with life. We live in a world replete with hatred, fear, negativity. And we need to keep guarding our halos.

    Just my two cents. What do you think?


    • Chandra Lynn says:

      Hi Natasha! Actually, Chandra is my first name and Lynn is my “middle” name. I get that question a lot. 🙂 I like the principle of not accepting unkindness, but sometimes, to get to that point, we have to deal with it emotionally. We are human, after all, and things do hurt us. I think the key is to admit that, but not give it any more attention than it deserves. Acknowledge the hurt and move on.

      Liked by 1 person

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