Growing in Place with Mark Nepo – The Agents of Kindness

Hello and welcome to Growing in Place, my weekly video offering as a way to help us keep in touch as we continue to shelter in place, and move towards reopening our country.

Today I’m offering a selection from THE BOOK OF SOUL, entitled “The Agents of Kindness.” In moments of great turmoil, like we are experiencing now, we have threads that we weave to help us hold life together. For some it’s a picture you carry, or a story or poem that brings you great comfort, maybe a memory that you hold dear or a song you play when you need your heart to open — I call these memories and activities silken threads — they bring us together. This is our kinship of being human. I hope you enjoy the video and it helps you get through these trying times with a sense of connection and kindness!

The Agents of Kindness

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 this: our willingness to walk together through the storm and share what we have, so we can create a path to all that matters.

As a hive of bees is incessant in its need to make honey, so are we in our need to make a sweetness of all that we go through. And so being human is loving the particular until it dissolves into the Universal. In time, love shapes us into an instrument that someone suddenly lost might play.

In truth, the agents of kindness are everywhere. I sat in a café where I live. And there you were. I don’t even know your name, but I saw you across the street. You were reaching above you to help a child down from a ledge. It was a complete and absolute kindness. The child was afraid, and you simply smiled and reached. Aware of it or not, you were reaching as one of the tribe of givers who have cared enough to build what we need throughout the ages. Yours is the hand that dragged a stone to finish an aqueduct, the hand that closed a wound on a battlefield, the hand that pulled someone from a temple that was on fire, the hand that held the wailing head of someone in grief. As you lowered the child back to the sidewalk, she scampered away without a word. I watched you watch her vanish back into the stream of the living. Your unexpected moment of kindness gives me hope that we can do what we were put here to do.

It’s no surprise that people who love what they do always seem familiar, because when we love, we rise from the same Living Center. And telling stories of those doing what they love enlivens a form of narrative medicine that strengthens the immune system of humanity. The act of loving what we do enables others to love what they do, the way sunlight enables plants to grow.

And that’s the job of being kind: to help things grow. Watering seeds can change the world, but the chance to do the watering can change your life. For the heart of gratitude is giving and receiving. This is the exhale and inhale of relationship that keeps us well.

There are many ways to inhabit this ordinary miracle. Instead of waving, the poor farmers in India outside of Puducherry greet strangers by touching their heart. Such a simple way to acknowledge what connects us, such a simple way to water the care between us.

So I encourage you to create your own practice of watering seeds and touching your heart. I encourage you to water the flower you dream of that you wake with in your hand. I encourage you to be there for others so you can discover together what giving and receiving means. I encourage you to tell stories about giving and receiving, especially to young people, so they can inhabit the strength of their kindness, as they take their turn repairing the world.

If blessed on our way from birth to death, we discover our kinship as human beings. And under all our complex thinking and webs of principle and belief, the only moral code that lasts is helping each other up. Under all our dreams and destinations, we simply rush to each other when we fall, the way white blood cells rush to the site of an injury. This is elemental. The health of the world and our souls depends on this simple reflex to stop what we’re doing and help.

Questions to Walk With

  • For your last journal question, describe one seed you’ve been watering in the world and how it’s growing.
  • For your last invitation to be in conversation question, meet with a friend or loved one, and describe a time when you stopped what you were doing to help another.

In response the pandemic I’m offering a 3-session Webinar, The One Life We’re Given: Saying Yes to Life on the first 3 Mondays in June 2020 ( as a way to help us mitigate our fear and navigate our anxiety. The reason this work is so important is that as a tree needs to deepen its roots and widen its trunk to endure the force of unexpected storms, we need to know our Spiritual Center so we can endure the storm of this pandemic. While sheltered-in-place, my intention is to help us keep growing in place until the bans are lifted and we can safely go out into our towns and cities. I’m looking forward to this new experience. My work has changed significantly as I normally am on the road for about 10 months each year, and so I’m finding new ways to gather with you!