Freedom to Care

My son and me at a Finger Lakes winery

Naomi Shihab Nye reminds us of our duty to one another when she says, “We’re not going to be able to live in this world if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing with one another.”

I love this poem because of the simple human love and care that it explores. A father carrying a sleeping child across the street in the rain. We immediately feel the tender cargo—the child’s soft cheek nuzzled next to ours, the tiny hand that rests on your shoulder. It’s easy to carry a child.

Yet Nye charges us to go further with the idea of caring. How do we bring that same generosity into the wider world? We often have numerous chances in a day to be kind to another person—letting an elderly person go ahead of you in line, holding the elevator for a colleague who’s carrying a stack of papers, giving water to a homeless person on the street.

When I think about the freedom to care for someone, I think of that unbridled giving the Nye reminds us of in her poem. I know of a meditation group that makes “blessing bags” to give to homeless people. The bags contain water, juice, snacks, and personal care items. But even more important than the actual items in the bag is the spirit in which they are given.


~Naomi Shihab Nye

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

How might you expand your circle of caring?  Who or what calls to you for more attention?