Over the weekend, I was feeling a little under the weather, so I was curled up in my pajamas, snuggled with cats, when I came across Helena Bonham Carter reading Small Kindnesses by Danusha Laméris. This poem was published in 2019 and is included in an anthology called 365 Poems for Life, compiled by Allie Esiri, which looks to be available only in the UK.
This poem, and Helena's reading of it, are a delight that I can't stop revisiting. I think maybe it's because it's such a beautiful distillation of how the #SharedDelightsGrow practice feels to me-- small kindnesses, noted and shared, often make their way into my list of delights.
Small Kindnesses by Danusha Laméris
I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”
And in looking for the link to the September 19 The New York Times post right before this sentence, I found another delight:
Danusha Laméris compiled over 1,300 young people's responses to the inquiry: What small kindnesses do you appreciate? into Small Kindnesses: A Collaborative Poem by Teenagers From Around the World.
Dear reader, I invite you to spend some time with Small Kindnesses, including Helena's reading of it, and then the responses in Small Kindnesses: A Collaborative Poem by Teenagers From Around the World.
And then ask yourself: What small kindnesses do you appreciate? And then ask your friends, loved ones, colleagues, and maybe the person sitting next to you while you wait your turn somewhere.
I'm looking forward to hearing about your experiences in co-creating the fleeting temples where the holy dwells, right here in the midst of our everyday lives.