It was 7:10 AM. The clock radio filled my bedroom with the sounds of Morning Edition from National Public Radio. I was roused from my sleep. As I lay in bed and listened, I learned of the events that continued to unfold in Japan following the earthquakes and tsunami.
A reporter interviewed people in Japan about the disaster’s impact on them. One man spoke of his childhood memories after World War II when the country had to move beyond the devastation of two nuclear bombs. The man had built a successful business that his son had recently taken over. Now the business was gone because of the waters of the tsunami. While his voice was weak, the man’s conviction was strong. “We have hope for the future. We will rebuild. I will not live to see it. My son may not live long enough to benefit from it. But my grandson will see the recovery.”
Over the last few weeks, I’ve heard many people say things like, “If this disaster was going to happen anywhere, Japan was best able to handle it.” I’ve been very uncomfortable with this statement. What people, and which country, are able to handle devastation like this? While comments like this may reflect an understanding of Japan’s disaster preparedness and superior building codes, no one can really be prepared for a series of earthquakes followed by a tsunami followed by nuclear radiation. The chain of events is nothing less than horrific.
Yet, I remain inspired by the resiliency of the human spirit. I cannot imagine how I would react to living through a disaster like this. Clearly, it’s not that anyone caught in this disaster has a choice about the matter. At the same time, the words of the Japanese man I heard on the radio have given me reason to reflect upon what it means to hope in the midst of what must be a hopeless situation.
I suspect that I’m like most people. I want tough times in life to pass quickly. I become frustrated when they don’t. When problems are out of my control, I want to find ways to have control over something. It’s difficult to let go and to move through difficult events as they are.
The man I heard on the radio assessed the situation. It’s clear: the dire state of affairs in Japan won’t be solved in his life time. Yet, he hasn’t given up hope. He realizes that real recovery will probably take longer than his son may live. Will it be 15, 20, or even 30 years? What an overwhelming thought! But there is reason to hope for his grandson.
In many Native American tribes, moral decisions were traditionally made based on their impact on the lives of people seven generations from one’s own. To be honest, I have no clue as to who my ancestors were or what their lives were like seven generations ago. Thinking about people seven generations from now seems so far removed from the decisions I make. Yet, that was the basis of moral and ethical decision making for many indigenous cultures. Similarly, this Japanese man has made his decisions of how to live in the midst of a disaster based on how his outlook and actions will impact the life of his grandson.
Undoubtedly, there is a lesson in this for all of us. We may not be able to change tragic circumstances in our lives today, but we have the capacity within us to transcend those circumstances in order to make choices for those who come after us.
On a fundamental level, the tragedy of the disasters in Japan is more than anyone can bear. Yet, even in the midst of horror, at least one man dares to have hope for the future. Perhaps his example can inspire us all to hope in the midst of the challenges we face day to day.
© 2011, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.