We are parents and educators committed to a just and equitable society. This blog is a forum to share ideas and resources to help us teach our children and ourselves about social equity issues.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Kindness/ Love is not a pie

Parents and Teacher Colleagues,
I have been thinking about this question: In the service of what do we strive for social justice? There are a lot of strong feelings that come out through this work; anger, outrage, shame. This is to be expected, because these are powerful dynamics, all have suffered, and many, many have suffered deeply. But it feels to me that working for social justice in the service of anger is limiting and risky.
Dr. Cornel West wrote in Race Matters that his goal was to speak truth to power with love. Dr. Hsiao-Wen Lo, one of the diversity speakers this past year, spoke of the need for greater compassion in this work, not just in the direction of people with privilege to people with less privilege, but from privileged people striving to be allies, to other privileged people who may not be as far along in the work. Her remarks were powerful for me, because the meta-message of what she said was, the work is the expansion of compassion and empathy in a fundamentally restructuring way. i.e. Love is not a pie. The generosity in how she framed the task with such inclusion and expansion was profound.
So I am thinking about what it looks like and feels like to do this work in the service of love. Love not in the context of "being nice" or "liking."Rather love of self and the expansion of empathy and dissolution of self so that love of self encompasses love of other. It is a powerful force of wholeness.
This poem, Kindness, one of my favorites by Naomi Shihab Nye, speaks to this expansion of empathy.

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.

Naomi Shihab Nye
from The Words Under the Words: Selected Poems

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