Reading and writing poetry is as much a tool for self-expression as a tool for self-exploration. While reading these works connect with the memories, associations, and emotions that the poems bring forward for you personally. Use the “Questions to Consider” as jumping off points to explore your own feelings regarding the themes discussed in each poem. As you read, thinking about how your own relationship with loss/death/suffering changed because of your experiences in healthcare (either as a patient, a student, or a practitioner). Do you feel your capacity for empathy has deepened or dulled? How do these experiences impact the way you view yourself and your patients? 

After reading and the poem Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye, and thinking about these questions, return here for some additional thoughts (STOP HERE and read the poem "Kindness" first). 

Naomi Shihab Nye wrote this poem shortly after a horrific experience during her honeymoon. She and her husband planned to spend a few weeks in South America but shortly after arriving the entire bus they were traveling with was robbed. One man on the bus was killed during the incident. Later, a local man approached them, sensing their distress, and asked what happened. He listened and was kind. While her husband hitchhiked to a nearby town, with night approaching quickly, penniless, without a passport, sitting alone in an empting small town plaza Naomi Shihab Nye wrote this poem. Here kindness is connected with experiences of sorrow and as one deepens, often so does the other. This connection is later reiterated as kindness being both a friend, and a shadow. It is not sorrow alone that deepens our appreciation of kindness but rather we must “speak to it until your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth”; it is when we allow our sorrow to connect us to the universal experience of suffering, with others, and with what we love. How does the sorrow you experience connect you with others and what does it bring you to more deeply appreciate?

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