Dear Family and Friends,
There is a very beautiful YouTube that was made by survivors in Ishinomaki City several months after the tragedy of 03/11. That video ends with the image of a mother holding her baby. The child was born the same day that so many others lost their lives or their livelihoods.
(In order to watch this YouTube, please scroll down to the second image, which is still open for viewing.)
Over the years since our hearts and psyches were severed so deeply, posters expressing thanks have begun to appear all over the Tohoku region. Most of these photos show towns’ folks clustered together with beaming smiles. They want to show how far they have come and how grateful they are for the help and support they have received from so many.
Actually, there is no one here was has not been changed by the shock and consequences of 03/11. Everyone still talks about how the events of that time changed them in very profound, often not overt, ways. People live with greater uncertainty and vulnerability now. And they have a much deeper awareness of what really matters to them.
Of course, people still work incredibly hard, in some ways more than ever, but now there is a sense that life is more than total commitment to the job. People are taking more time for their families. They seem to enjoy their kids more. And it is not uncommon to see fathers taking their children to school or chatting with them as they walk down the street hand-in-hand. They obviously enjoy spending time with their young ones.
Even young people, previously notorious for their immaturity and superficiality, have a sadness and depth, even a kind of wisdom that only life experience can carve into their psyches and souls. Everyone here now knows we are alive because of all those who have helped us.
“I used to pray to only the Shinto gods,” he told me. “I have an altar both at home and in my company. Everyday I would bow before it, clap to wake up the gods, and then pray.”
I asked him to explain further. He said, “There are the four cardinal directions, of course. But there are also the gods above us, and the ones below us. They all form a circle of protection around us. I bow to each of them, and then I review my life, thanking everyone who has ever helped me. I have had so many mentors. I am so blessed. In fact, I guess you could say my god is the God of Gratitude.”