Friday, March 25, 2011

Empathy transcends tragedy in Japan

[This is from an email forwarded by Monika Wyss... thanks, Monika!]

Last night when I was walking home (since all traffic had stopped), I saw an old lady at a bakery shop. It was totally past their closing time, but she was giving out free bread. Even at times like this, people were trying to find what they can do and it made my heart warm.

In the supermarket, items had fallen off the shelves and people were picking up and putting things back neatly, and then quietly standing in line to buy food. Instead of creating panic and buying as much as needed, they bought as little as they needed. I was proud to be a Japanese.

While I was trudging home for four hours, I saw a lady holding a sign that said, "Please use our toilet." They were opening their house for people to go to the restroom. I felt tears welling up.

At Disneyland they were giving out candies. High school girls were taking so many. I was dismayed. But then the next minute, they ran over to the children in an evacuation center and handed it to them. That was a sweet gesture.

My co-worker wanted to help somehow, even if it was just one person. So he wrote a sign: "If you're okay with motor cycle, I will drive you to your house." He stood in the cold with that sign. And then I saw him take one gentleman home, all the way to Tokorozawa! I was so moved. I felt like I wanted to help others too.

A high school boy was saved because he climbed up the roof of a department store during the flood. The flood came so suddenly. He saw people below him, trying to frantically climb up the roof and being taken by the flood. All he could do was keep filming them so their loved ones could later identify them. He still hasn't been able to reach his own parents but he says, "Its nobody's fault. There is no one to blame. We have to stay strong."

There is a shortage of gas now and many gasoline stations are either closed or have very long lines. I was worried, since I was behind 15 cars. Finally, when it was my turn, the man at the pump smiled and said, "Because of the situation, we are only giving $30 worth gas per each person. Is that all right?"

"Of course its all right. I'm just glad that we are able to share," I said. His smile gave me so much relief.

I saw a little boy talking to a public transit employee, saying, "Thank you so much for trying hard to run the train last night." It brought tears to the employee's eyes, and to mine.

A foreign friend told me that she was shocked to see a long queue form neatly behind one public phone. Everyone waited so patiently to use the phone even though everyone must have been so eager to call their families.

The traffic was horrible! Only one car could move forward at the green light. But everyone was driving so calmly. During the 10-hour drive (which would only take 30 minutes normally) the only hooting I heard was a horn of thank you. It was a fearful time -- but then again a time of warmth and it made me love Japan more.

When I was waiting at the platform, so tired and exhausted, a homeless person came to us and gave us a cardboard to sit on. Even though we usually ignore them in our daily life, they were ready to serve us.

Suntory (a fruit juice company) is giving out free drinks, phone companies are creating more wi-fi spots, 1,000,000 packets of noodles were distributed by a food company, and everyone is trying to help the best way they can. We, too, have to stand up and do our best.

Whenever there is a blackout, people are working hard to fix it. Whenever the water stops, there are people working to fix that too. And when there is problem with nuclear energy, there are people trying to fix that too. It doesn't just fix itself. While we are waiting to regain the heat in the cold temperature or have running water, there are people risking their lives to fix it for us.

An old woman on a train said: "Blackouts are no problem for me. I am used to saving electricity and turning off lights. At least, this time we don't have bombs flying over our heads. I'm willing to happy to shut off my electricity!" Everyone around nodded their agreement.

When I grow older, I am going to tell my children and grandchildren: "When your grandma was young, there was a big earthquake in Japan which brought the world to one. And everyone worked so hard to help support each other and everyone was shining."

To be able to tell that story, I'm going to work hard in rebuilding my life.

In Korea, a Japanese man took a cab ride and when it was time to pay, the driver refused and said: "You are Japanese, yes?" Yes. "When you go back to Japan, please donate the fee." Beyond nationality or politics, we are all the same.

I saw a man at the evacuation center crying when people brought food to him. It was the first time in 3 days that the food had been delivered to their center. But his next words surprised me. "I am very grateful that we are provided with food. But, but, the city next to us they are not receiving any food at all. Please go to that center as well."

An old man at the evacuation shelter said, "What's going to happen now?" Then a pink-cheeked school boy sitting next to him said, "Don't worry! When we grow up, we promise to do things much better." While saying this, he was rubbing the old man's back. And when I was listening to that conversation, I felt hope. There is a bright future, on the other side of this crisis.

[Uplifting! After reading this, how can I whine about both my computers crashing? I even managed to post this, although the computer had to be rebooted three times.]