Wednesday, 15 March 2017


“It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world.” - Mary Wollstonecraft

This week, Poets United in its Midweek Motif challenge has as its theme, “The Kindness of Strangers”. I was in two minds about this as soon as I saw it. Kindness is a virtue and we should all be kind to one another, be they family, friends, acquaintances or strangers. But although I have been the beneficiary of the kindness of strangers, I have also been a victim of it. If I were to choose, I would choose the tough love of family, rather than the charitable kindness of strangers…

The Kindness of Strangers

My mother drank and beat me blue,
No tenderness in her stirred;
My father swore and stones he threw
He never had a kind word.

My brothers ran away from there
And from them nothing, ever;
My sisters screaming harpies were
A kiss, a hug? No, never.

I grew up stunted, gnarled and bent
Silent, scared of all the dangers,
And learned, alas, to be content
With kindnesses of strangers.

Our house a place of hellish strife,
Screams, beatings, evil torture;
I would be killed by gun, by knife
My fate as black as vulture.

Abused, defiled, and sold as flesh,
My life a nightmare hateful;
My anger born each day afresh,
My loathing greatly baleful.

And when I managed to break free,
And when I ran to shelter,
It was to strangers that I’d flee
But in their kindness welter.

For strangers may be kind and good
And their deeds may be well-intentioned;
But like a mother’s love for brood
None other can be mentioned.

A stranger’s kindness is not love
And may have many reasons;
It waxes, wanes as it behove
And change, as change the seasons.

I’d rather have my kith and kin
Look after me and love me;
A home to be so safe and cosy in,
With a snug loving roof above me.


  1. That's a soul stirring poem.
    Love can never replace kindness!

  2. oh...this is so is condensed kindness methinks :)

  3. I feel this and wonder how many--loved too much or not enough--prefer the kindness of strangers? I have friends who are such people people that no one remains unfriended long. They need no time or space, it seems to me. But perhaps it's just a matter of degree. With love lacking as in this narrative who would not crave the loss be filled? Such a compelling poem.

  4. What an evocative read! I should like to sit down and have a long discussion about it. I do love the thought that love is condensed kindness.

  5. Nicholas, in many ways, your poem describes my childhood and parts of my adult experiences, although, I will never go back, to that Hell on earth. For I got more love, from strangers, than from my mom and younger brother, whom abused me, for most of my life, whether it be physical, emotional or psychological. I know, I felt safer, in the company of some strangers, than, with my biological family.

  6. It is amazing the things we endure in families and yet emerge caring individuals. This poem describes childhood trauma known to many and I know from experience one grows up wanting only a snug, cozy safe home. So I resonate with those closing lines. In my life, it was a group of caring strangers whose kindness unlocked my prison and led me into sunny days.

  7. This is so sad because I know some of it but there's always hope. I like your different point of view on this topic.

  8. This is such a deep and contemplative poem, I like the idea of love as condensed kindness.

  9. Nicholas, I think you make a good point here. Even people from the most abusive family backgrounds, and who depend on the "kindness of strangers", even those people (or perhaps even more so, realise the value of a happy family life and the need for love in the home. We are grateful for the charity of strangers, we appreciate their kindness, we repay them in whatever way we can, but we do not love them back...

  10. Oh my, this was very sad and deep to ponder on. glad you found the kindness you've always deserved from strangers. Your poem really intensified the meaning of the midweek motif, I think. Good work.

  11. Thought-provoking poem, Nicholas. Told from a unique point of view. Well done!

  12. The nearest is not necessarily the dearest. The kindness of strangers van restore faith in humanity. Too many people do not receive kindness from anyone.

  13. Nicki, I assume this is true; and it makes me really seriously reflect. I do think the kindness of strangers is important, but despite this kind of kindness it is the relationships we have with our 'kith and kin' that can make or break our lives. We all need a place to feel safe and cosy in, an I think we can only find this with people who truly are connected with us. We sometimes need caring strangers, but more...we need our 'kith and kin' in our lives.