It’s late on Monday night and I really, really should be in bed! Instead, I am wide awake reflecting a little on the past few weeks. We are here in the Tokyo area for two days and then we’ll fly back to Germany on Thursday. Here is a little portion of what I have been thinking about as I reflect on our time in Ishinomaki.
During our two visits to the Tohoku region, Matthias and I experienced feelings of deep compassion and pity for the Japanese people that we met. The people of Tohoku are still hurting very deeply, enough for folks to begin to openly weep with you even after a year has passed. They continue to mourn loved ones, neighbors and friends lost in the tsunami. Many are suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and are suffering with symptoms such as sleeplessness, nightmares, numbness, flashbacks, loss of appetite, suicidal thoughts, and depression. Yet, at the same time, in the midst of their suffering and grief, we also saw an awful lot of thankful, humble, and genuine people. As Dr. Timothy Keller (a pastor in New York City) has said, “they have bowed before the realities of life” – they understand that life is not always happy or even pleasant, and they also know that every life is precious and valuable.
Indeed, through such tremendous suffering, I saw tiny glimpses of something so beautiful I can hardly put it into words. It was like a vision of a new northeastern Japan, upgrade version 2.0, which will far surpass what it was before 3/11/11. Here’s a little of what we saw: frank and genuine people who don’t hold back who they really are, a place where it is okay to friendly to strangers, who cry with you and share their feelings openly, who tell their opinions (LOUDLY), who think very lowly of the Japanese government and highly of building community, who warmly welcome strangers, who are open to new friendships, who are willing to share their lives with you, who don’t give a rip about the latest fashions, and who understand what life is NOT all about (not money, prestige, college degrees, materialism, or comfort). For those of you who don’t know much about Japan, this is not necessarily the norm (especially talking with total strangers and showing deep emotions openly). Hopefully, these things will continue long after the city is physically rebuilt, and we are excited to see what “Ishinomaki 2.0” will look like. Honestly, Matthias and I truly can’t imagine living anywhere in the world but in Tohoku!
Thanks to our friend Michelle B. who took at least a dozen shots of us until she FINALLY got a good one.