A few minutes of reflection have found me counting. There hasn't been a day when Japan hasn't been a part of my life. My parents, both USA Nisei were married in the only doorway of a Buddhist temple standing near their workplace in Tokyo, post WWII. They both worked for Radio Free Press at the time, meeting there, after very different experiences during that war.
My mother made sure we were healthy, miso-shiru, tofu, sardines, liver every week and lots of kombu, nori, wakame, lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. We were told that we should work hard and expect little, but to fight with all our intelligence and might to make sure equality and fair play were a part of American life. We were told that we were lucky, there were so many people for whom our life (they worked three jobs) was very luxurious.
We agreed. We never felt that we had been cheated and when our grandparents told us about stories of Japan, when our parents told us of the beauty of the ocean, the rice fields, the architecture, the care the people took in everything, we knew we had far to go to be considered equal in their eyes.
When we saw artwork that depicted huge waves with Mt. Fuji in the background, we thought about how well they knew the ocean.
When the news spread over the world that a tsunami had hit the Eastern Coast of Northern Japan, I stopped breathing. Transfixed, I watched the movement of the ocean creep on the television screen, realizing that in reality the water was moving a at a rate faster than the cars outside on the street, overtaking everything in its path. Bending steel like paper, moving buildings like toothpicks, the water pulsed through towns and cities with the heartbeat of the earth's quaking. Humans never looked so small as they did against the giant waves and the near constant shaking of the ground. I remembered hearing the tsunami warning training sirens at my elementary school on the coast of Southern California.
There isn't enough one person can do to alleviate the suffering or hardship or spur a recovery. But in our world of quick news and quicker reactions, people have leaped to show their support. When children put coins from their savings into a box to help others and individuals dip into their retirement savings to write checks to help, there's a fantastic, warm feeling of unity in purpose that puts hope into action.
Reading accounts of people who have survived, have suffered the losses of their friends and family, these are perhaps the most uplifting. They cry at the good news, in gratitude and sadness. As is so often in life, these two emotions coincide. Kindness, as always is, rewarded with more than gratitude. Those feeling last. And those connect us with the rest of humanity.
I hope I have been kind in my life. There are more opportunities for me, as I've been only watching the distress from a digital screen thousands of miles away. Sakura trees are blooming. It's cherry blossom festival season. We shouldn't and we aren't forgetting those images that come from Japan. It's time to get back to work.
Please go to www.japantownsanjose.org to find a list of ways you (and I) can contribute.