My sister loves to send me poems, some written by herself, some written by other brilliant poets. Here are a few that stir my soul, inspiring me to be grateful for Earth’s smallest blessings (like the plush purple bells of grape hyacinths, or the sweeping sweetness of golden trumpet vine), to strive to love all beings more deeply (the capering butterflies and men under bridges with rattling cups alike), and to look upon the sunrise of each new day with hope for a more just and peaceful world:
Throughout my day at the Furniture Bank, I mostly answer phones, file paperwork, and guide clients through the warehouse as they select furniture. I’m useful, but not indispensable. This poem reminds me that I do not have to occupy center stage to make a difference.
A couple of weeks ago at the Furniture Bank there was a woman who was so thrilled about her furniture, she told me and the front office manager she was going to buy us chocolate from the nearest Publix. We told her we did not need her to repay us with gifts but she insisted.
“Not many people are willing to help me and my kids out,” she said. “I’m so thankful for people like you.” Then she asked to take a picture with the front office manager and me so she would not forget us. Not everyone who comes through the Furniture Bank door is grateful (it is, after all, used furniture), nor is everyone kind (sleeping on a hardwood floor is not conducive to pleasant dispositions). Though she was asking to take a picture with us as though we were the celebrities, with her infectious exuberance, in that moment the client was to me “famous as the one who smiled back.”
From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the Spring.
The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.
But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plough.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
where the ruined
house once stood.
My mother sent me this poem. I find it teaches an invaluable lesson about the tender strength and endurance of kindness, a lesson that has helped me a great deal when it comes to living in intentional community. I’ve realized winning an argument will most likely always be a hollow and fleeting victory, because it’s difficult to do without making someone else feel embarrassed or inferior for being wrong about something. Further, there is no gain in proving someone else wrong aside from a fast-fading spark of pride, and if there is little gain, there is little point. According to Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration