Let's Talk About Education

A word about kindness and compassion

September 2, 2020 - By Cody Alton - Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor” is an African proverb that reminds us that crisis and struggle can instigate growth and strengthen partnerships, where lessons are not learned just through triumph but also in failure.

Months have passed with us being separated physically from our classrooms and offices, and from our friends and family. We have faced challenges we didn’t know we were capable of facing and made sacrifices not just for ourselves and our families, but also for our neighbors and for people in our communities we will never meet.

We looked through our screens into each other’s lives not just to celebrate the best of times, but also to support each other at the worst of times. In that shared suffering, we learned a valuable lesson about our propensity for kindness and compassion.

As we look forward to returning to our campuses we will take with us the lessons we learned and the relationships we built. I hope that we hold onto the knowledge that we were and will continue to be stronger as a community. That through our partnerships and belief in each other we not only survived those initial months but we found success. That we will return better than when we left.

Through our shared struggles we have grown together and together we will take time to rejoice. And when the time comes to return to our physical spaces, to meet again face to face, let’s not forget those lessons we learned, and continue to live through kindness and compassion.


Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952

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.

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Cody Alton
Director of Student Support Services

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