After a two-week pause from Improvised Life helping my friend through open heart surgery, all is well. The surgery was successful and my friend is slowly recovering.
It is going to be a long haul, worth every minute for a gift of a second chance with a heart that feels new.
Through weeks of ICU and very non-linear and unpredictable processes of healing, we have felt the powerful effect of the simplest of things: Kindness.
Many acts of kindness sustained us through what was often a frightening and uncertain time, from nurses, doctors, friends, family, our online communities, even random strangers… all employing forms of kindness, from well-wishes and prayers and calls of concern, to offers of help, to a hospital housekeeper who sang hymns to my wounded friend, and a friend’s delivery of homemade onigiri (Japanese rice balls each stuffed with a different delectable surprise), that are portable and sustaining, perfect for navigating the hospital.
Remarking on the beauty of the the word kindness —kind ness — my friend said “It is related to kin. Kinship”.
It reminded me of Naomi Shihab Nye’s remarkable poem about the depth and breath of kindness and how it lives in the world. Listen to her read it here:
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 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.