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NatureInterface > No.02 > P099 [Japanese]

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Let's Start a "Just Being Glad" Game in Our Town


I started the 21st century seeing the New Year Concert of the Wiener Opernball Orchestra. I always enjoy seeing Melanie Holliday, a soprano, and never get tired of her show. I wondered if she would show 'it' to us again this time. She was already in her 50s, but I was sure that most of the audience looked forward to seeing 'it.' I heard myself saying, "Oh, goody!!" The Radetzky March finally started at the end of the encores, after two hours of the operetta. And, at the very end of the music, she did 'it'! She turned cartwheels in her gorgeous dress and high-heeled shoes! She has the personality to make us feel sophisticated, beautiful, and familiar, like an ordinary person, all at the same time. I knew that she had lost her mother, her beloved master of life, two months before the concert. Thank you, Melanie. I'll also do my best. Though it's not with cartwheels...

I have worked as the secretary of the resident's association in my area for a year. More than 450 households belong to this association, and I have seen various events and activities inside and outside our area. Everyone in this area has to take his/her turn being secretary, once every several years. So at first, the secretaries work from a sense of duty. But later, we, the secretaries, have become friendly and enjoyed our happy harmony. When the end of the fiscal year approached, we had two outstanding problems in our area. (Note: The fiscal year and school year in Japan is from April to the following March.)

The first problem was that the local elders committee that was subsidized by the city was in an extremely precarious position. There is a limit to how much elders can take care of other elders. In Japan, September 19th is Respect-for-the-Aged Day, a national holiday. We visited houses in our area on that day, and realized that there were more than 180 people who were 70 years and up living in our town. But we had rarely seen these old people out and about in town; they seemed to spend their time watching TV or reading the newspaper. The city said it would quit subsidizing the elders committee, if it continued to be inactive.

The other problem we discovered, was that although most of the town's residents enjoyed the cherry blossoms, not many residents swept up the fallen leaves. We noticed that there were some people living along the street who had swept up fallen leaves. We thanked them, and at the same time, we felt sorry for them.

I realized everyone in an administrative position for our organization felt the same way I did, that we had to solve these two big problems.

I was happy that my duty as a secretary would soon be over, as the end of the fiscal year approached. But, our association decided to start new, long-term activities to solve these two problems, even if the activities weren't something big. Yes. We are taking the first step soon.

For the problem concerning the elders committee, I offered to act as manager. My mother had lived by herself alone in a province, and had moved to our area later. She said that there had been birthday parties once every two months by turns in the province where she had lived. But in this area, she didn't have any friends. I wanted to let her find friends to talk with, by holding birthday parties.

For solving the problem of street sweeping, we had plenty of ideas. One person said, "Let's have all the residents do the sweeping together every month. It'll help us get to know each other." Another person said, "How about letting the children on the children's committee sweep together with us? They would learn the spirit of serving others." Our ideas flowed. Someone said, "It would be fun if we could all cook and drink pork soup together after sweeping." "Oh, what a good idea!" Our faces brightened up.

But, after cooling down, we realized there were many problems with our ideas. How could we coordinate the schedule of the resident's association and with that of the children's committee? Who would buy the ingredients for making pork soup? Where could we get a big pot? Does each household have to bring his/her own dish? You bet we'll use disposable dishes! Never!

Next we started to discuss how to dispose of fallen leaves and trash. We decided we must do it in an earth-friendly way.

Finally, we reached an agreement. We concluded that we needed to go back to our starting point, and simply practice good deeds to solve these problems ourselves. First, we decided to start sweeping on our own initiative, during our tenure as administrators of the association. In this way, we could set an example for the rest of the neighborhood. What people in our town really need may be close relationships among people of various ages and sexes.

I think my heart is possessed by the positivity of Pollyanna, the character in the book written by Eleanor H. Porter.

Pollyanna became very famous in the US at the beginning of the 20th century. When she was 11 years old, she wished for a doll as a Christmas gift. But somehow, she received a pair of crutches.

Despite her disappointment, she immediately changed her way of thinking: "Goosey! Why, just be glad because you don't-need-'em (crutches)!"

I think this "just being glad" game urges me to shift my point of view so that I, who am already in my 50s, might not cling to envy or to a backward-looking way of thinking.

In the U.S. of Pollyanna's era, people had recovered from the losses of the Civil War, and enjoyed their independence as well as the independence of their country. They became optimistic, and totally believed in the goodness of humanity. Society was full of hope and bright humanitarianism. I guess there were many Pollyannaish people at that time. Are their characteristics needed in the Japan of the 21st century?

At the end of the fiscal year, me and the other administrators of the association realized that our points-of-view had also shifted, and that we had found things to be glad about through our activities at the resident's association. What had started as duty, turned into pleasure.

I think I have been greatly encouraged to take action by Pollyanna's spirit, and by her ability to give hope to people around her, and by Melanie Holliday's cartwheel. Yes! Let's start the "just being glad" game!

In fact, until I became the secretary of the resident's association, I hadn't paid much attention to the own area where I live. Becoming secretary of the resident's association was a good thing, after all!

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