Henry James famously said, “Three things in life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” Today’s poem, “Small Kindnesses” by Danusha Laméris, echoes this sentiment and is a reminder not to underestimate the positive impact quick and courteous exchanges can have.
I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”
Click here to listen to Tracy K. Smith talk about “Small Kindnesses” on her podcast, The Slowdown.
It feels like we need small kindness more than ever these days – especially when face-to-face interaction is limited and smiles are often hidden behind masks.
What small kindnesses have you recently received or bestowed?
Wearing a mask and staying at home are kindnesses we can give one another.
One morning last week, I was excited to find a headband on my porch that my neighbor knitted for me along with a thoughtful note. It made my day!
After reading this poem, I’ve been trying to say “I like your shoes” or “those glasses look great on you!” instead of just thinking it. So far no one has objected.
What about you?
“Small Kindnesses” by Danusha Laméris, from Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection, 2019 Copyrighted material used for educational or therapeutic purposes
Photo: Random Acts of Kindness Take Over Melrose, bostoncbslocal.com