Saturday, May 29, 2010


20 May 2010 I had the honor of meeting six school children at the Sadako Children's Memorial in Hiroshima, Japan. Although our serendipitous encounter was very short, it was one of the most amazing and mysterious experiences of my visit. This paper construction I received was produced by kids from Kamigo Elementary School, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan. Endearingly misspelled, Hanetsuki is a game similar to badminton, without the net. You'll soon learn that the remainder of this posting has nothing to do with the game, but instead provides only a tactile memento of this wandering.

When this group of kids approached me, each introduced him/herself in English with facts about where they were from, and questions for me regarding where I was from. Not that this was anything unusual. As a Westerner at a significant destination such as this in Japan, it is a very common to be approached by a group of school children and asked to participate in a brief cultural exchange. What made this encounter particularly unique is that I had been desperately seeking for a maigo (lost) student of my own for almost a hour, and let me just say that his personality and biological predisposition warranted my heightened concern and anxiety for his well being, let alone his whereabouts in the thick of a major Japanese city. As far as I was concerned, it was going to take me the remainder of the day to find him, if at all.

During the first few moments of this encounter with these kids I probably conveyed hesitation and some resistance to engage in their request, due to my anxiety. What I remember saying to myself was, "I simply can't afford to do this right now." But what I discovered in the passing seconds was a melting away of stress, an opportunity to take a deep breath, and get myself centered. Anxiety was exchanged for peacefulness.

They handed me the Hanetsuki construction, we bid our respectful farewells, I walked about 30 sobered paces; and there he was. I found my student emerging from some heavy pedestrian traffic, blissfully on his way to this site. Relieved and mystified to see him, I nonchalantly greeted him and expressed some urgency that we needed to catch up to the other 17 people in our group. I'm not looking for an explanation, I'm just going to go with this one, but I am once again participant to synchronicity, with a bit of Zen mixed in for spice.

I received the paper construction as a very meaningful gift, and I treasure it, but hindsight, the entire episode is a gift. I am so thankful for those kids for making my visit so special, and my memories of Japan so powerful. The more I think of it I am beginning to grow strangely thankful for my student getting lost and found — now that is one unusual gift.

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