Last Frog Give-Away
Early February 2013
Dear Family and Friends,
It has been a while since I wrote to you. My daily life is so demanding that I do not have the opportunity to step out of it to do other things, as I would like. But now that universities here are on “spring” break (despite the snow and ice), I was able to head back to Imai Sensei’s Yomawari Group to volunteer at his soup run for the homeless. It was good to see old friends and meet new ones.
All the volunteers there know exactly what to do and go about it quickly and efficiently. Things run like clockwork, which is good since we have a limited time in the kitchen and dining area.
Today’s menu was different from the vegetable curries that are usually served. Maybe because of the cold, a bit more meat was in order, so today the men got sausages and potatoes, along with nourishing miso soup.
We volunteers got large rice balls and soup after completing the preparation work.
I was surprised to see more homeless than usual. And was even more saddened to see several young faces among the crowd. One or two were even in their 20s. The job situation here for people outside of construction is very bad. So Imai Sensei’s responsibilities continue to expand. He makes every effort he can for the homeless here. Last month he arranged for them to get medical checks, so today they received the results. He also makes sure they get showers and their clothes washed. He tries to get funding to pay them for odd jobs, such as picking up trash in Sendai Station early in the morning before the commuter rush. He also works tirelessly to find inexpensive housing for them. But since the earthquake that has become exceedingly difficult.
Today was a bit unique in that I gave the volunteers the very last critters of the 500Frogs Project.
For almost two years before this, friends and I handed out these hand-painted gems in schools, community centers, and at festivals. But it seemed very appropriate to give the last batch to the volunteers at the Yomawari Group. Not only do I admire their work tremendously, but also money from the sale of my book Letters from the Ground to the Heart goes to them. So somehow their getting frogs seemed to be a perfect Grande Finale.
One of the leaders thought the frogs would go to the homeless. But when I explained that they were for the volunteers, her face light up. “Really! For us! How kind!” She was genuinely touched. Her generous spirit thought only of those she served, never of herself.
Each volunteer carefully chose one or two frogs, cuddled them close, and walked away beaming. That made my day, and surely will be part of this wonderful, love-filled project forever.
And I do indeed hope that “kaeru” (“come home”) will become a reality for the many that Yomawari so selflessly serves day after day, after very sacred day.