Friday, 1 April 2011

A story from the quake

I'm not usually given to sentimentality, but this came into my inbox today.  Though there are parts that make the veracity of the story somewhat questionable, it seems to be authentic. It's certainly believable.   

It is a letter written by a Vietnamese working as a policeman on the Sanriku Coast back to someone in Vietnam.  (This is part of the problem as  AFAIK VN haven't sent police, he may be an immigrant naturalised as a Japanese though.)  


I was suprised to see the Shanghai Daily had an edited version of the article.  There is a window of  opportunity for improving China-Japan relations - if both sides make the effort.  Even if it does turn out to be fake, I'm happy to see China finding positive things to say about the "Japanese character". 

Brother, there are so many stories I want to tell you - so many, that I don’t know how to write them all. But there was a really moving incident. It involves a little Japanese boy who taught an adult like me a lesson on how to behave like a human being:
Last night, I was sent to a little grammar school to help a charity organization distribute food to the refugees. It was a long line that snaked this way and that and I saw a little boy around 9 years old. He was wearing a t-shirt and a pair of shorts.
It was getting very cold and the boy was at the very end of the line. I was worried that by the time his turn came there wouldn’t be any food left. So I spoke to him.

He said he was in the middle of PE at school when the earthquake happened. His father worked nearby and was driving to the school. The boy was on the third floor balcony when he saw the tsunami sweep his father’s car away. I asked him about his mother. He said his house is right by the beach and that his mother and little sister probably didn’t make it. He turned his head and wiped his tears when I asked about his relatives.
The boy was shivering so I took off my police jacket and put it on him. That’s when my bag of food ration fell out. I picked it up and gave it to him. “When it comes to your turn, they might run out of food. So here’s my portion. I already ate. Why don’t you eat it.”
The boy took my food and bowed. I thought he would eat it right away, but he didn't. He took the bag of food, went up to where the line ended and put it where all the food was waiting to be distributed. I was shocked. I asked him why he didn’t eat it and instead added it to the food pile …
He answered: “Because I see a lot more people hungrier than I am. If I put it there, then they will distribute the food equally.”
When I heard that I turned away so that people wouldn't see me cry. It was so moving -- a powerful lesson on sacrifice and giving. Who knew a 9-year-old in third grade could teach me a lesson on how to be a human being at a time of such great suffering? A society that can produce a 9- year-old who understands the concept of sacrifice for the greater good must be a great society, a great people.
It reminds me of a phrase that I once learned in school, a capitalist theory from the old man, Fuwa [Tetsuzo], chairman of the Japanese Communist Party: “If Marx comes back to life, he will have to add a phrase to his book, Capital, and that ‘Communist ideology is only successful in Japan.’”
Well, a few lines to send you and your family my warm wishes. The hours of my shift have begun again.
- Ha Minh Thanh


Lily said...

I read that too. I loved the list that came underneath (did you read it?)- was planning to post that on my blog :) So much humanity and strength in that story.

Cecilia said...

I did see it, but wasn't sure of the origin of it - it wasn't from the Shanghai daily.

I liked the list too. Even though I am often skeptical of defining the members of a nation, I can see a strong argument for nations defining themselves by inclusive, positive, aspirations.

You could see a similar thing happening in Aus after the Queensland floods.

I can't say with any certainty, but my bet is that the story of the boy is largely true.