Henri Nouwen coined the phrase the wounded healer in reference to individuals who have developed the ability to empathize with the sufferings of others through sufferings that they have experienced themselves.
The other morning I greeted a woman who had recently had a total hip replacement. I was surprised to see her out and about so soon after the surgery. Another woman who had had a tumor removed from her lung last month approached the woman with the artificial hip and asked how she was faring. “Don’t get up,” she said, but the woman rose from the bench; and I watched these two elderly women embrace—two wounded healers reaching out through their individual pain to comfort one another.
Freud said: “Wherever I go, I find a poet has been there first.” To be a poet in this day and age is to have a broken heart. Here are the beautiful words of the poet Naomi Nye in an excerpt from her poem entitled Kindness.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
You must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you can see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.