As the new school year opens across the country in the coming weeks, the leadership team for National English Honor Society hopes the year will unfold with joy, inquiry, and intriguing challenges bolstered by renewed and new relationships with students and colleagues. A tradition has been established that I write a short welcome note for the first newsletter; this year, I have struggled to find a way to help lift the heaviness of our times. Recent events weigh heavily on all of us; as educators, we have the added responsibility to help our students feel safe so they may learn and grow, academically and emotionally.
This morning, a friend of mine posted the following poem on Facebook, sending me on a short research task to learn more about Danusha Laméris and her publications. You will note Naomi Shihab Nye, magnificent poet herself, selected Laméris’ The Moons of August for the Autumn House Press Poetry Prize.
My challenge to you: how might your NEHS members be leaders throughout the coming months to be sources of kindness? Perhaps this poem will suggest some ways.
by Danusha Lameris
I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
Down a crossed 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.”
Danusha Laméris was born in 1971 in Cambridge, MA. She is the author of The Moons of August (Autumn House Press, 2014), selected by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the 2013 Autumn House Press Poetry Prize. She lives in Santa Cruz, CA, and teaches writing workshops.