I found Kindness under my dresser this morning, next to the earring I had dropped.  Kindness was a bit tattered, from having been carried around in my pocket on and off since I picked it out of a basket of business-card-sized words at the beginning of Lent.  My other options included Love, Hope, Faith, Mercy, and Joy.  Back in February, we were encouraged to take a word before leaving church – something to carry around with us, to meditate on, to pray about if we were so inclined.  Rather than hunt around for a word that I wanted, I closed my eyes, dug into the basket full of words and pulled out Kindness.

I had carried Kindness around for awhile in my pocket, where it kept company with receipts, various amounts of cash, the occasional stray credit card I’d forgotten to return to my wallet, and wads of plastic poop bags that I need when I walk my dog.  For awhile, I was really good about always putting Kindness in my pocket at the beginning of each day.  Eventually, Kindness got buried under the pile of small papers that always seem to collect on my dresser when I empty my pockets at the end of the day.

I hadn’t even realized that Kindness had gone missing until I found it this morning.  I don’t even know how Kindness got under the dresser, wedged under the dog’s bed, with just the “ness” sticking out – the bold blue letters surrounded by the feathery cross-hatching from blue and purple pencils.  As soon as I saw it, I remembered coloring this Kindness.  Sitting at the square metal table in the women’s unit of a local prison where I volunteer weekly, I spent one frigid January evening intently decorating Kindness, while sticking my tongue out of the corner of my mouth, a habit even my evil first grade teacher couldn’t banish.

Carrying Kindness around in my pocket today felt different than it did in February.  Maybe Kindness likes the warmer weather, the longer days, the lighter-weight jackets of the New England spring.  More likely, though, I’m just more open to Kindness a short two months later.  I’ve been liberated from a job that was poisoning my spirit and crushing my soul.  When your heart is hard – whether it’s for self-defense or from spiritual dehydration or from some other kind of deprivation – it can be hard to squeeze Kindness out of it.  Just as softer lemons are juicier, so is a softer heart.  Kindness is the juice.  Kindness is also a piece of paper that I found under my dresser today.

Maybe I’ll lose track of Kindness again.  Maybe Kindness will fall into the trash can, or get vacuumed up, or accidentally shredded with some old receipts.  Or maybe I’ll have Kindness for such a long time that it will get so worn and crinkled I won’t be able to read it anymore.  If any of those things happen, I’ll color a new Kindness to carry around with me.  In fact, maybe I’ll just color a whole stack of Kindesses, so I can hand them out, like business cards or coupons.  Here.  Here is Kindness.  Don’t worry about losing it.  I’ll make more.


9 responses to “Kindness

  1. Oh, I love you : )

  2. Beautiful, Sis.

    I dropped Bewilderment somewhere, but when I found it again, it had turned into Hope. Still looked confused, though.

  3. do you have Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “Kindness”? If not, I’ll send it to you. Mom

  4. Naomi is da bomb; meeting her was one of the great thrills of our so-called adult lives. But you, Audrey Joy, are likewise da bomb. Like we always say, any day with Joy in it is just a little more, uh, joyful.

  5. Penny Lane (really)

    So today, in a week when I lost my job, I re-read Kindness. And twenty minutes later, when My cat, Lily, puked on the shiny, clean white summer quilt that I had put on my bed, I recalled that my word was Patience. I’m not beginning to believe that it’s the word I need to contemplate for the rest of my life. Oh dear.

  6. Penny Lane (really)

    I actually meant to say that I NOW believe Patience is the word I’ll need, etc., etc.,
    Oh, dear again!

    • Oh Penny! I’m sorry to hear about losing your job and your cat losing her lunch (or whatever it was) on your shiny clean summer quilt. We could probably all use more Patience, right? I hope I get to see you tomorrow!

  7. Joy, I’m hitting myself in the forehead with my palm for letting so much time go by before I got back to visiting your blog. It always puts me in a better mood. You’re so talented. I’d buy your book. I wish I knew an agent but I’m pretty much a nobody so I can’t help you there. All I can do is try not to run out of ways to remind you how gifted you are. Take care.

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