Poetry Friday is hosted by Keri at Keri Recommends
Shoulders by Naomi Shihab Nye
A man crosses the street in rain, stepping gently, looking two times north and south, because his son is asleep on his shoulder. No car must splash him. No car drive too near to his shadow. This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo but he’s not marked. Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE, HANDLE WITH CARE. His ear fills up with breathing. He hears the hum of a boy’s dream deep inside him. We’re not going to be able to live in this world if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing with one another. The road will only be wide. The rain will never stop falling.
I have been thinking a lot about kindness and our collective sense of humanity this week, as President Obama’s days in office dwindle and we enter another dimension entirely: one where bullying, misogyny, racism, and selfish gain are not only permitted by the man who will sit in the White House, but celebrated, too. If Wednesday’s press conference is any indication, we will be seeing this behavior every day and it may well begin to be the “new normal”.
I worry about what this will do to us as a nation, but I worry more about its effect on our children; we may teach them not to behave and speak in disrespectful, intimidating ways, but they will see their President doing so every day, and getting away with it. How to teach kindness in the face of that?
In my small world, which is my classroom, I think I need to speak less about kindness and endeavor to show more of it. Our kids are watching closely these days, more than ever. I think they see the disconnect between what we say they should do (anti-bullying posters and assemblies) and how we behave towards them and each other, how we tolerate the bullying by the powerful and make excuses for that. I need to cultivate my patience, I need to look for the causes underlying acting out, I need to be willing to see things from their point of view even when it gets in the way of what I’m trying to accomplish as a teacher. If my students don’t see me practicing every day kindness, if they don’t feel my essential sympathy for them even when they aren’t at their best, it doesn’t matter what else I say to them – the road will only be wide/the rain will never stop falling.
I can’t do anything about the behavior of the man who will soon be in the White House, but I can be vigilant about the way I behave in my house… and my classroom, too (which is, after all, my home away from home.