Monday, May 21, 2012

Saturday, May 19, 2012 Experience Pays with the Flooring, Sue' Experience at the Fair and Other Stories

Chris and Stephanie are with us on their three day weekend from their job teaching English to Japanese international relief workers with JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency). Jonathan's and Chad's families have an all-day school function to attend with their children. Today's agenda: the LA and Memphis women head for the Christian booth at the Mayumi-san matsuri (fair) to do free face and hand-painting, and to give out cold drinks, and kakigoori (flavored shaved ice). Rusty and the Memphis guys go door-to-door handing out Let's Start Talking (free conversational English lesson) flyers. (Trace's words after six hours: "the tiredest I've been in the whole two weeks.")

This time Stan and Chris and I make excellent time with the vinyl flooring at Eric and Sue's, finishing two and a half rooms in the time it took us to do the patching, sanding and half a room yesterday. It helps having trowels with the correct (small) notches to apply the glue. We're just cleaning up when Sue, their four kids, Beth, Holly, and Stephanie return from the fair. Sue is surprised that we'd gone ahead and finished the last room and apologized for not having cleaned it our for us. But it was the story she told that made the whole day:

Noticing a mom with a six-month-old, Sue asked if she could hold the baby for a bit. So they got to talking--beginning with the typical topic--"is your child's school open and back to normal?" So they talked about kids and families and (here Sue interjects that "I must have that face that makes people open up") the twenty-something mom (her name was Yuko) says "well, I lived an hour north of here, but I lost my mom and my older sister in the tsunami and my sister was seven months pregnant at the time." So here Sue realizes that the sisters must have been pregnant at the same time. Finally Yuko says, flatly, "a month after the tsunami my husband kicked me out; he divorced me, and my father down here says he'd love to spend time with the grandkids so we moved in with him, but now he's getting tired of them, so we'll have to move again. If it wasn't for my three kids I would have killed myself by now." So Sue says I just gave her a hug and at first she was still in that brave composed posture, but then she just melted in my arms; and I thought "I wonder how long it's been since she's been hugged by another person." And she says that she got her phone humber so they can keep in touch. Wow, so we finish cleaning up and Sue thanks us again, and I drive the guys back to their apartment, and I don't know what else I can say after that.

Editor's confession: these fair pictures are actually from Sunday.
Later that evening at the Huddleston's after dinner we go around the room and tell an experience that relates to our work here. One of the team members confesses that several years ago, they were in a kind of spiritual crisis. So much was bad and wrong in the world that they just couldn't see a place for God in it all. Out jogging this young person was suddenly tired and sat under a tree on a bench to rest, only to look up and see the beautiful blossoms in the tree, and it hit them that while there was evil in the world, there was also room for the good that beauty represented, and that moment opened a door to a new purpose in their life.

In addition to the teams, three guests from Japan have shown up. Tsuchiwa-san, who is the neighborhood captain and works with our friend Aoki-san I met last year; I ask him to tell Aoki-san "hi" for me. Suenaga-san is another friend of BeOne from Ishinomaki who was at work in his factory when the jishin (earthquake) hit. He immediately thought of his mom at home in a wheelchair and rushed home to get her. Wisely abondoning the car, they headed for one of the few solid concrete buildings in the area for shelter. He said after the tsunami it was snowing, but you could also see beautiful sparkling stars in the black sky. The next day after the water receded, the bodies appeared. The second day the police went around putting numbers on them; he himself helped carry away 16 of them. He later found that among the dead were a 102-year-old neighbor, and many friends from his school graduating class.

The other Japanese guest is my old friend Kashiwa-san from last year. His story shows how people just sometimes surprise you. Last year, back in Osaka, the BeOne volunteers were coming back and sharing their stories, and one young lady that heard the testimonies was a hikikomori (a young person, usually male, that drops out of school and/or work, and shuts themselves in their room day and night for years at a time, even from their parents, because they don't believe there is a place for them in Japanese society with its expectations of conformity) Suddenly one day, she decides she wants to come on a relief run from Osaka to Ishinomaki (a 14-hour drive) to the shock of her mother. Now months later both daughter and mother have come and the mom can't believe the change in her daughter.

Anyway, the salad and the curry over rice were great, and with all the BeOne resident workers, kids, volunteer teams, and guests, it was a full house.

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