Robin Writes: I've known Leslie Larson since we both competed in a Junior Olympic event in the 6th grade. During our years in junior high and high school, Leslie traveled and studied on a number of fellowships in Latin America. After college she lived and worked in Japan. She and her husband Mike are now treasured friends. Because of Leslie's connection to Japan, I asked for her thoughts on the string of tragedies that have rocked that nation.
Leslie's Japanese friends during a Christmas visit in 2009: Hideki Ochi, (top left, having fun with a Groucho mask) wife Chifumi, son Soichiro and daughter Chisano.
Japan's Highest Value
Leslie F. Larson
For better and worse, we Americans prize our independence of thought and action above all else. Think Benjamin Franklin. Think Mark Twain, or better yet Tom Sawyer. Think even of Mark Zukerberg of Facebook fame. Our lives are constructed around this principle. Our politics and our view of the world is seen through this particular lens. It shapes how we respond to crises.
The devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan shows us perhaps the highest Japanese value, the one that guides their actions. I would call it communal fortitude.
Following the chaos of that double-whammy disaster, what we Americans saw on TV was teams of rescue workers, heads down, pulling their fellow citizens from the rubble. I saw video of a whole valley that was nothing but broken debris with a single road running through it.
That road had been cleared and there was no one on it but the vital rescue workers doing their jobs. No gawkers. No looting. No need for police to hold back individuals insisting that they had go down that road right now to get to their house.
Store owners gave away their grocery inventories wholesale to the evacuation centers. All this to say nothing of the truly heroic nuclear power plant workers who are potentially sacrificing their lives for their countrymen. They've been doing this--in the dark, at Siberian temperatures--since the earthquake struck on March 11.
This Japanese fortitude was brought home to me succinctly by Hideki Ochi, a close family friend who lives in the city of Abiko, Chiba Prefecture, about an hour north of Tokyo. I lived with his wife's family in 1972 and we have visited each other throughout the subsequent years, including a 2009 Christmas visit. I emailed them soon after the quake to find out how they are. Here is part of Hideki's response.
"In Tokyo and Abiko, people life has been recovering recently, but electricity, train operation and gasoline supply are unstable. However, we are very fine... People in Japan appreciate aid from many countries very much."
So, this is my plea. Japan is a large, successful industrial country like us. But they need to know that we support them--just as we appreciated the world's support after 9/11. Please make a donation to the Japanese people through the Red Cross. You can click on the link below to do that.
Leslie's friends making Christmas cookies in California during a Christmas visit in 2009. The Ochi family, from left: Hideki, Chifumi, Chisano, Soichiro.
Donate to Japanese Relief at the Red Cross