As many of you know, last year I had the pleasure of traveling to Japan with a close friend. We explored Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara for 10 days, and what struck us more than anything was the extreme kindness of the people. From cafe to streetcorner, we were consistently treated with respect and felt so welcome in a very foreign country.
Over the weekend, as reports have come in from Japan, I find myself thinking of these people and all that they have been through in the past few days. I think about the little old couple we met in a coffee shop, who upon discovering that we had gotten lost earlier in the day, insisted on walking us to our station and ensuring that we got on the proper train. I wonder about the beautiful, serene ryokan owner, Tomoko, and hope and pray that she and her family and employees are safe. I have the handsome young calligrapher on my mind, who sat on a bridge, creating his art and smiling warmly at all who passed him by. The giggling girls who took us shopping, explaining the confusing retail practices, and then introduced us to one of our most amazing meals on the entire trip. The young school children who asked us to help them with their English language assignment, laughing, stumbling over words, waving at us brightly when they saw us later in the day. Each of these people were only in my life for a moment, but they made more of an impact on my heart than all of the shrines, museums, or restaurants in the country.
When a disaster like this occurs, it is easy to isolate ourselves and proclaim that we've got troubles of our own and can't spend all of our time and money on a small country on the other side of the world. But what I find so beautiful about humanity, is that for most of us, these times of disaster are when we unite. We band together and help our our fellow man, despite the differences in culture, religion, geography or language. We do not simply dwell only on our own problems, large though they may be, in the face of such utter tragedy and despair.
If you would like to do something to help the people of Japan, the Red Cross is accepting donations on its website, or you can text REDCROSS to 90999 for an automatic donation of $10. The Japanese Red Cross has already dispatched more than 60 teams into the country, and certainly as more information about the damage and the needs of the country comes to light, more can be done to help. There are terrifying, heartbreaking stories of death, loss, and fear. But with our help, maybe there can be more beautiful stories of survival and hope.