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Poem: On Being Asked to Give a Stranger a Gift I Love and Value


Photo by Johan J.Ingles-Le Nobel on Flickr

In thinking about my friend’s birthday request I discovered that the things I love and value most – my Relationship with my partner, my Children, spending time in the company of Friends, learning and living NVC and RC – are the hardest to give away.

This poem tries to capture that insight.


On Being Asked to Give a Stranger A Gift I Love and Value

I cannot give away the waking of my heart:
the sugared scent of syrupy French toast
amidst the unfamiliar clang of pots,
him standing in an apron, spatula afloat,
after that first night when we cast our lots.

I cannot give away the birth of motherhood:
the sun-warmed touch of skin against my skin
amidst the lull of clockless milky noon,
us breathing, turning, waking, as one tide,
one revolution of the filled-to-overflowing moon.

I cannot give away the savoring of friends:
the rippling laughter floating on wine breath
amidst the pearls of fruit and curves of cheese,
our voices weaving, overlapping waves
reflecting peace, exhaustion, gladness, ease.

But I can give the gift you’ve passed along:
of moving towards conflict, not away,
amidst the rising clang of disconnecting words,
the clarity that comes from hearing one by one
each note within the Circle’s swelling chords.

Creative Commons License
Talking To Strangers by Elaine Shpungin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.


About Elaine Shpungin

Elaine Shpungin, Ph.D. is the founder of Conflict 180: an indivualized approach to whole school turn-around. Her writing has appeared in academic articles,, Tikkun Magazine, and edited books on pop culture themes (e.g., The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, House M.D.). Her weekly Restorative Tips newsletter has more than 700 subscribers and can be found at

2 responses »

  1. It’s brave to share a poem!

    and Yaaay! for moving compassionately towards conflict (with RCs – restorative circles)

    • Thanks Ray. Believe it or not, sharing my writing (including poetry) is not a huge leap for me. Reaching across space to engage people I don’t know without a container (like a workshop or class) is so much harder! Thus the challenge, I guess. 🙂 Do you write, Ray – and if so – is it hard for you to put the words out there?


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