To Japan, with love and chopsticks

by Leah McClellan

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In separateness lies the world’s great misery, in compassion lies the world’s true strength. ~Buddha

Last Saturday, I watched the news about the earthquakes and tsunami more times than I can count. Each time, I watched until I could stand it no more. I grabbed a tissue to dry my eyes, shut the TV off, and went back to my chores.

On Sunday, I sent $10 to the Red Cross via my cell phone, hoping it will help in some way. I watched the news on TV a few times, and I read the latest headlines online. I thought of you and sent my love, I wrapped my arms around you in my mind, and I asked the universe to heal and provide for you in the way that is most needed.

I followed Twitter streams with keywords like “Japan” and “nuclear.”

I browsed through photos on the New York Times online, and I went to bed with images in my mind that I couldn’t erase.

If there were something I could do for you, my brothers and sisters in Japan, I would do it. I thought, if anyone wants to come to the U.S., you could stay with me—as long as you don’t mind two dogs and a cat, constant click-clacking on a keyboard, and a roof that leaks. I don’t have much money but heck, mi casa es su casa—it’s gotta be better than a shelter.

If there are Japanese children who have lost their parents, I would take them in.

On Monday I decided there’s not much I can do, and I decided to not watch the news anymore. I don’t want to see your country like that, and I don’t want to watch your private grief by being a spectator to your struggles. I want to see Japan someday when it’s peaceful and beautiful again, when the cherry trees are blooming, not through photos and videos of such an enormous, heart-wrenching tragedy.

Even though I’m not watching the news so much, I’m holding you close in my heart.

It’s Wednesday night here in the United States, and while I’ve watched the TV news only a few short times (I had to see what’s going on, at least a little), I’ve kept up by checking online news throughout the day.

My heart goes out to you, Japan.

While I’m holding you in my heart and waiting for better news, I’m also trying to just let it go. I have work to do and my own life to live and struggles to overcome. Mine aren’t so difficult right now, by comparison, but this is how life works. Some of us have horrific challenges in life, and others don’t face quite the same difficulties—or we have tough situations at different times in our lives. And I, too, will meet my end, as we all will, in a peaceful way or a more tragic, terrible way as some of you have in Japan.

When we’re born, we start our journey toward an inevitable end, and though I’m sure we would all like to have a peaceful ending, some of us don’t get it. Some do. That’s how it goes.

Instead of worrying about you, I’d like to tell you a story.

When I was a very little girl, I had an aunt. Her name was Aunt Mitzi, and she was from Japan. She wasn’t really my aunt; she was the wife of an American—Uncle Al—who was the brother of my mom’s friend’s husband. But we kids called her Aunt Mitzi, as kids do, as a sign of respect toward an adult family friend.

Aunt Mitzi met and married Uncle Al and came to the U.S. after WW II.

Uncle Al was in the U.S. Army, and that’s how he and Aunt Mitzi met. They lived only a few houses away from me, and I visited her sometimes. She was wonderful. She had beautiful, fancy dresses that sparkled and were very different from ours, and she had really interesting, beautiful furniture. She also had a cute little monkey. We kids had to be careful around him, because he could bite (and sometimes he pooped when he wasn’t supposed to). But I could see he loved Aunt Mitzi as he sat on her shoulder and whispered in her ear.

The most wonderful thing about Aunt Mitzi was that she taught me how to eat with chopsticks.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Aunt Mitzi, but I still eat with chopsticks, even if it’s just for vegetarian sushi in the mall. And of course I use them when I’m eating at a Japanese restaurant. I have a few sets at home, too, though I don’t often use them.

But from now on, whenever I have an excuse to eat with chopsticks, I will. And I’ll think of you.

With chopsticks in my hand, I’ll think of you and reach out with my mind and soul and send a lot of love your way. I’ll envision bowls full of warm, nourishing food. Children fed, homes rebuilt, warm and cozy inside or happy families out in the sunshine. I know the tears will fill my eyes at first, but who cares? What are a few tears next to what you have been through and the work that lies ahead of you?

Dear brothers and sisters of Japan, I dedicate all my chopsticks to you—the brightly-colored chopsticks, the plain wooden ones, the chopsticks that are cheap and the ones that are a little fancy—shiny black with designs that look like dragons and  words on them that I don’t understand.

Whenever I use chopsticks—even if they’re from a Chinese take-out restaurant—I’ll think of you and send you my love and hope for healing and recovery.

I know it’s not much, but it’s what I’ve got. I’m thinking of you every minute of every day right now and sending all the love I’ve got over the miles.

I know that this situation must be so very difficult for you—I can only imagine. But please know that in the United States we’re thinking of you with love and compassion enough to fill the whole country, and there’s someone in Philadelphia who is thinking of you and sending love and hope—now and in years to come—every time she picks up her chopsticks.

Thanks for reading, and please join me in sending all your love in any way you can for our friends in Japan.

And please tweet and share! Especially if you know someone who lives in Japan or has friends or family there.

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{ 2 comments }

Alison Kerr | Loving Nature's Garden

Thank you Leah. You expressed my sadness and compassion for the people of Japan. May the spring, which is just around the corner, bring them a renewal: beautiful cherry blossoms; singing birds; and nourishing food. I am sending them loving thoughts.
Alison Kerr | Loving Nature’s Garden´s last [type] ..How does square foot gardening work

Leah McClellan

Wonderful sentiment, Alison. Maybe I’ll adopt that for a little prayer of sorts.
You’re welcome, and thank you for stopping by :)

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