Like so many I sit in front of my TV these days riveted. I can't keep my eyes off CNN, who very rarely makes an appearance in my home. I called Japan my home for nearly three and a half years, so I feel like I have a personal bond to this country. It is not a foreign destination for me but rather a piece of my own history.
I learned so much from my time in Japan but among the most profound was their sense of community and the importance of the group versus the individual. I would sit in awe as I'd watch a group of Jr. High students all coloring the same collage at the same time. Thirty hands on a piece of butcher paper five feet wide and 2 feet tall- all the markers crashing into each other- and no one balking! Not one argument. Not one person telling the other to stay on their side. Not one person trying to control what the others were drawing. And the whole thing coming out beautifully in the end. I was often left in awe of situations like this that were such a far cry from the American experience of individuals dueling for control and power from the very youngest age. Children did not fight over toys in preschools there and the first word a toddler learns is not "Mine." I was a Child Development major in college and was taught in school that this phase of ego-centrism in toddlerhood was a human stage of development. It is not. It is a cultural stage of development.
I was watching a woman who was rescued last night being piggy backed over the rubble by a rescue worker and when he finally set her down to safety on a chair inside a building she quickly stood up to deeply bow at her rescuer and tell him, "Thank you very much." She had been floating in the water clinging to a tatami mat for two days in freezing temperatures. She told the story of her daughter drifting away from her as she choked back her tears. This woman had just endured what most humans will never have to. And in the midst of the most tragic of human stories she remembered to show gratitude and appreciation to her rescuer. These are the moments when I am incredibly humbled by this society. What makes a society develop in such a way that they have such an incredible capacity for grace? And more importantly, how can the rest of us develop this capacity in ourselves?
My heart breaks for Japan right now and my prayers are with them. It is my hope for the rest of humanity that we can all learn a little something while we watch and open ourselves to greater levels of compassion, gratitude and grace in the process.
All proceeds for our Japan DVDs will go to earthquake relief this month.