If You Knew

If You Knew
By Ruth Muskrat Bronson

If you could know the empty ache of loneliness,
      Masked well behind the calm indifferent face
Of us who pass you by in studied hurriedness,
      Intent upon our way, lest in the little space
Of one forgetful moment hungry eyes implore
      You to be kind, to open up your heart a little more,
I’m sure you’d smile a little kindlier, sometimes,
      To those of us you’ve never seen before.

If you could know the eagerness we’d grasp
      The hand you’d give to us in friendliness;
What vast, potential friendship in that clasp
      We’d press, and love you for your gentleness;
If you could know the wide, wide reach
      Of love that simple friendliness could teach,
I’m sure you’d say “Hello, my friend,” sometimes,
      And now and then extend a hand in friendliness to each.

About the Poem

I wasn’t going to write about this poem, but I changed my mind. The poet is talking about being invisible. She speaks of the invisibility of her people. In this case, her people are Native Americans, but she could be talking about any minority who feels invisible. Minorities are often ignored by others who don’t see them as people who have feelings and desires. Bronson believes that if these other people would just stop and show a little kindness, they might realize the meaning of universal love and see them as fellow humans in need of some humanity.

“If You Knew” can speak to us in many ways. For me, it has two meanings. The first is that we hurry along in our life when we should slow down and look at the people around us. We should show kindness, extend a hand, or even just give someone a friendly smile. If we don’t slow down, we may never see what is truly going on with a person. Sometimes we get too wrapped up in ourselves. Too often, we never see the other person’s pain or loneliness until it’s too late. What we need to do is show love and acceptance. 

The second meaning it has for me is that the poet is calling out to be seen. It’s a poem about loneliness and how a little kindness can grow into a friendship. We all need a little help sometimes. Sometimes, the only thing we really need is for someone to notice us, to tell us that we are loved, and to show what a friend can be. No one wants to feel lonely, but we also have to trust in others, especially our friends and family, that we are loved because that’s what true friendship is all about: love, caring, and being there for one another.

About the Poet

Ruth Muskrat Bronson, also known as Ruth Margaret Muskrat, was born on October 3, 1897, in the Delaware Nation Reservation. Remembered for her work as a leader in Native American education and as an activist for Native American rights, she is the author of Indians Are People Too (Friendship Press, 1944). She died on June 12, 1982, in Tucson, Arizona.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

One response to “If You Knew

  • R

    I once said to a friend about certain people who always want us to reach out to them. Sometimes those people need to reach out themselves, halfway at least. Love, friendship and companionship are a two-way process. Yes, I understand certain types or classes of people may feel alienated, but if they don’t reach out or act up, then they favorite the status quo. For example the suppression or non acknowledgement of gay people to the expression of “ we are here” through pride parades.

Thank you for commenting. I always want to know what you have to say. However, I have a few rules: 1. Always be kind and considerate to others. 2. Do not degrade other people's way of thinking. 3. I have the right to refuse or remove any comment I deem inappropriate. 4. If you comment on a post that was published over 14 days ago, it will not post immediately. Those comments are set for moderation. If it doesn't break the above rules, it will post.

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