The Agents of Kindness

By Mark Nepo

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It’s the silken threads of care woven through the brutal storms of time that hold everything together. A loved one’s picture carried through a war and delivered to a grandchild thirty years later. The seed that isn’t washed away that takes root, arriving in the world as an orchid whose beauty makes a young girl become a painter. The memory of the moment we met twenty-five years ago overwhelming me as I watch you sleep this morning. The laughter of my father while planing a piece of mahogany, which kept me believing in the love of work and the work of love while going through cancer. These silken threads are everywhere—a web of barely visible connections that infuse us with resilience when we’re forced or loved to find our way through what we’re given.

In the midst of great turmoil, in the cascade of human catastrophes, these threads of care seem obsolete—artifacts of a gentler time. But they wait under all the breakage that overcomes us. These fine threads of care can be lost but never broken. They wait for the devotion of a single soul, daring to stand up for life in the midst of cruelty, daring to love everyone in the face of prejudice, daring to step out of the drama that says we’re strangers or enemies, daring to help those in hiding come out into the open. One silken thread of care held onto and followed, sometimes for years, can repair the world.

 It was my grandmother who taught me to be kind, who, with the weary faith of a sturdy immigrant, taught me that life opens for those who dare to give. Once living in the open, there is no career but being kind.

 So let’s keep each other company, which means let’s be companions, which goes back to the French, meaning “one who breaks bread with another.” It always comes down to this: our willingness to walk together through the storm and share what we have, so we can create a path to all that matters. 

Excerpted from The Book of Soul: 52 Paths to Living What Matters, pp 243-244 (St. Martin's Publishing Group, May 2020) with permission of the author. Mark will lead the weekend retreat, “Reduced to Joy: The Journey from Our Head to Our Heart,” September 10-11, 2021 at Mercy by the Sea