The Common Good Matters

Internally displaced girls help each other wash hands at the UNHCR Sheik Shahzad camp in Mardan district

 

For a while now I have been yearning to hear mention of the Common Good in the media and on the lips of everyday people.  Today, it seems, the Common good is often equated with political correctness in America and is scorned as a weak liberal conspiracy to rob people of their rights.  But, plain and simple, it is just kindness.  May we begin a movement of kindness right now, today, within our circles of influence. **

 

Kindness

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 everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye

You can listen to Naomi read her poem here

You can hear the story behind Naomi’s poem here.

**Find an excellent explanation of a circle of influence here.

 

Photo Credit: HUFF POST.COM

 

 

 

 

Geography of the Soul

Geography of the Soul

In an effort to protect our egos, we leave in our wake, a destructive landscape of regret.  Our acts of protection are as much an animal response as protecting their physical lives is for other animals.  The difference, of course, is that we can strengthen our egos sufficiently to withstand attacks and move beyond them for the sake of the common good.  The process of moving beyond ego creates a soul-landscape rich in variety.  Remnants of ego caught on jagged crags, conjure memories of lies to self and others; charred skeletons of timber stand in witness to courageous suffering endured, and hopeless suffering self-inflected.

Our soul’s geography resembles the terrain of active volcanoes years after they have exploded. Destructive lava flow has given way to affluent bursts of bold, bright, wildflowers- the acts of justice and compassion sown as seeds alongside germs of ego.  Patches of green miraculously inch their way through the bowl of impenetrable metamorphic rock.

Just as rock can be intrinsically altered by the flow of hot lava, so is the soul dramatically altered by the movement of the Spirit, and our response to her. If we trust the Spirit, and trust ourselves to grapple with our instinct to protect our egos, seedlings will dot the horizon.  Wildflowers, once extirpated by fear, will burst forth like fireworks on Independence Day.

I recommend frequent road trips through the terrain of our souls.