No matter what the grief, its weight,
we are obliged to carry it.
We rise and gather momentum, the dull strength
that pushes us through crowds.
And then the young boy gives me directions
so avidly. A woman holds the glass door open,
waiting patiently for my empty body to pass through.
All day it continues, each kindness
reaching toward another—a stranger
singing to no one as I pass on the path, trees
offering their blossoms, a child
who lifts his almond eyes and smiles.
Somehow they always find me, seem even
to be waiting, determined to keep me
from myself, from the thing that calls to me
as it must have once called to them—
this temptation to step off the edge
and fall weightless, away from the world.
I love this poem for the way it brings together the apparent paradox of the grief that we all experience and the kindnesses that we also recognize – universal sorrow and the beauty of humanity.
I believe it to be true, her statement about grief, that we are obliged to carry it, regardless how heavy the weight. Carrying grief is really all we can do since it cannot be fixed or willed away. It is a natural part of our experience of living that we are invited to embrace.
But then she presents us with poignant examples of people helping one another – the young boy giving directions, the woman holding open the door, a stranger singing, a child who lifts his almond eyes and smiles. All these kindnesses reaching toward one another. Have you too not noticed the small kindnesses we are offering one another, because as another poet Naomi Shihab Nye says then it is only kindness that makes sense any more.
And we do not even have to search for these sweet offerings, they find us, wait for us, determined to keep me from myself. She reminds us that we all suffer, all experience the impulse at times to step off the edge / and fall weightless, away from the world. What keeps us here can be the simple acts of kindness we receive from strangers, each carrying their own grief yet still able to give of their own tender-hearted generosity.
May the many acts of kindness in this world reach out to you in your moments of sorrow as we go through these times.