It’s easy to feel disconnected from strangers in our busy modern lives. Headphones, screens, and tight schedules limit fleeting yet meaningful interactions. But poet Danusha Laméris’ thoughtful work “Small Kindnesses” highlights how even the briefest daily exchanges reveal our shared hopes and vulnerability. Her poem explores how these “small kindnesses” stitch us together despite distance and busyness. Reflecting on its message can reawaken us to the power of little acts in cultivating community.
“Small Kindnesses” Poem by Danusha Laméris
I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded 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.”
Meaning of “Small Kindnesses”
At its heart, Laméris’ poem emphasizes the value of passing yet poignant moments we share with strangers. She points to examples like helping someone pick up fallen groceries, letting them go first in line, or smiling as we pass by. These “small kindnesses” embody simple yet profound caring.
Though brief, the poet asserts, such interactions are the “true dwelling of the holy” – sacred glimpses of our common humanity that transcend superficial differences. When we pull in our legs, say “bless you,” or hand someone their coffee, we acknowledge the dignity in all people.
Laméris suggests these fleeting “temples we make together” fulfill our shared longing for compassion and connection, even amidst the isolation of modern life. Their cumulative impact weaves us together.
About the Author Danusha Laméris
Danusha Laméris is a contemporary American poet and essayist. The child of a Dutch father and a Barbadian mother, her work explores themes of community, family, and nature. She powerfully captures ordinary moments that reveal wider truths.
Laméris has published three poetry collections, with a fourth forthcoming. Her poems have appeared in The New York Times, Ploughshares, and Best American Poetry. She was formerly Poet Laureate of Santa Cruz County, California.
Lessons from the Poem
Several impactful takeaways emerge from Laméris’ “Small Kindnesses”:
- Treasure the brief but meaningful exchanges you share with strangers about their days. Recognize their importance.
- Look beyond surface differences to see the vulnerable, hopeful human behind social roles. Find commonality.
- Make the choice to offer small kindnesses yourself each day, however simple. A little compassion goes a long way.
- Tiny acts of care stitch our social fabric together, combating isolation. They remind us we’re in this together.
- Even just holding a door, letting someone go first, or smiling sincerely matters. Don’t underestimate small gestures.
- The everyday intersections of our lives hold hidden opportunities for holiness through decency.
Applying This in Your Own Life
We can all apply the lessons in “Small Kindnesses” to nourish community:
- When passing strangers, truly see them rather than avoiding eye contact. Offer a kind smile.
- Thank servers, baristas, cashiers, drivers, and others for providing you brief services. Wish them well.
- Help neighbors you encounter with carrying packages, holding doors, or collecting mail when they’re busy.
- If you see someone drop something, help them collect it. If they sneeze or cough, say “bless you” warmly.
- Give up your seat for elderly, disabled, or pregnant people on public transit. Patiently let others go first.
- Wish acquaintances you know casually a genuine “How are you?” Listen and extend caring.
- Reach out to isolated relatives, friends, or neighbors with calls just to connect. Loneliness is an epidemic.
Through such small yet meaningful social awareness each day, we build bonds of human understanding. As Laméris explores, even brief acts of grace illuminate what unites us.
Danusha Laméris’ insightful poem asks us to notice and cherish the many “small kindnesses” we exchange with strangers as we move through the world. Though quick, these moments fulfill our shared need for compassion.
By sustaining these simple human connections amidst the busyness of life, we can stitch a web of care that leaves no one alone. As Laméris reminds us, we have “so little of each other now” beyond these brief intersections. Let’s make them count.