Friday, December 31, 2004
To start off this entry, I'm taking a tip from the past wordful design element book by including the above auto-relevant picture. Whoohoo.
On the early morning of the last day of 2004, I find myself looking back at everything that happened this past year, especially in light of the fact that I spent the better part of the 11 months of this past year in Japan. The year 2004 will always I suppose live in my memory as the "Japan Year", just like the year 2000 will always be in my memory as the "Brasil / AACF Core Year".
When I first arrived back to Seattle, I thought that it'd be easy to write down all the lessons I learned from my time in Japan... as if time would naturally allow me a way to transform the feelings, thoughts, and memories into words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs.
The process didn't happen quite like I wanted. I sort of felt like a 3rd grade kid being suddenly introduced to the 5-paragraph format (intro, 3x body, conclusion) and asked to sum up the meaning of life in 2 pages or less. Everytime I sat down in front of the computer to type something, it was as if the monitor's radiation fried all the coherency from my brain. Everytime I picked up a pen, it was as if the act of holding it reduced me to a 3-year old child spurting gibberish and drooling.
But I digress... lessons. God showed me a lot of things about myself over there, lessons I'm still struggling to master and completely live out.
The most important lesson I learned from this past year was also the one I learned first - a fact that makes the lesson so obvious, so simple, that I'm sure almost everybody knows it, but very few people live it. The lesson can be best described as this:
Whoever you meet or know is not a coincidence. God has placed every relationship in your life for a reason - from family to friends to strangers. And no matter what that reason is, your interaction with those people will both affect your life and reflect what you truly believe is important.
Simple, right? I thought so too, at first. But I spent my entire time in Japan really grasping the importance of it. In hindsight...
...I had a wonderful host family who cared for me like I was their own blood and taught me what it was like living in complete and tight-knit family.
...I found a best friend who both encouraged my faith and yet also taught me not to take the unimportant things of this world too seriously.
...I met a crew of good friends who helped remind me that no one can go it alone and everyone needs backup. Especially after 'bouts of ridiculous nomihodai.
...I made a lot of Japanese friends who showed me that underneath the complexities of culture and language, there is essential human quality that binds us together and our friendships can be built on that quality.
...I had a group of co-workers from a hundred different walks of life and experiences to show me that even a group as different as us can actually learn to work and like each other.
...I met a lot of corporate hacks whose shameless pursuit of money and the bottom line made me realize how ugly greed really can warp people.
...I had tons of young Japanese kids to teach, laugh with, console, and guide... all while in their eyes, they helped me to what is good in the heart of their Garrett-sensei.
And all the while, I also had family and friends back here in the US writing me letters, e-mails, sending packages... even commenting on this blog (I'm a nerd, I know).
But relationships by definition are never just exclusively taking what others give you (unless they're parasitic). Part of me internalizing the reality that relationships are purposeful and important was sacrificing - and not sacrifcing merely of what was convenient to give; but giving sacrificially to those around me - listening, talking, deferring, offering, meeting, writing, drinking, singing, encouraging... or even something as simple I buying someone lunch.
The lesson taught me that the best relationships both are expressed and grown by sacrificial living - dying to yourself for other people. Not sacrifing for the sake of getting something in return, but out of gratitude to God for the people He's entrusted to you in your life and sacrificing because you know it's what must be done.
It's daunting thing, really... to consider that everybody we meet is for reason, and that ultimately, by the way we treat those around us, we either affirm that God is love, or we perpetuate a cold, unjust, and cruel world.
If I claim to have faith in God, then I must embrace empathy despite my natural inclination to be distant. And even if my circumstances have partly conditioned me to be aloof and emotionally removed, I need to care about others more and have sympathy for the burdens they bear. Everybody needs to work on being less self-focused and that includes me.
I'm still marinating on that.
Looking back, it's interesting to see what I was thinking in past New Year's times...
.:One Year Ago... Mood: Cautiously happy. I was celebrating living with the host family and enjoying the move from Myohoji to Kawanishi.
.:Two Years Ago... Mood: Despondent, bitter, and angry. No job, no car, and not a lot of support from people.
.:Three Years Ago... Mood: Blissfully ignorant. I was still in university and thought I'd find a job within 6 months after graduating and everything would fall into place. How sad.
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