A few weeks back I woke up to reminders on Facebook of it being the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. For the rest of the day I couldn’t help thinking about how much the world has changed since then. Before I came to Japan an older woman I met at a church asked, “Have you thought about Pearl Harbor?” I wasn’t sure where she was going with this. I wanted to remind her about the atomic bombs we dropped on Japan and how we put Japanese-Americans in concentration camps. Thankfully, I refrained from doing so. Needless to say both countries did a number on one another. But now 70 years later I am volunteering in Japan. I am teaching the children about my culture and language while they in return teach me so much more.
On that Thursday, December 7th(US time), I went to Taki Dashi (the soup kitchen I help out at once a week) as usual. When I arrived I was greeted by a group of volunteers that I hadn’t met before. In English and broken Japanese I fumbled my way through explaining I was in Japan as a volunteer and not a student. The ladies were so sweet. One of them started talking about how our two countries have had a horrible relationship in the past. She went on to say how wonderful it is that the times have changed so much that I am able to come to Japan as a volunteer and friend. I don’t know if she knew that that day was a historical one for our countries. But of all the days we could have met, of all the days that we could have had that conversation, it was on the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The following Sunday I looked around at all of the wonderful people I have come to know and love. People, whom I have laughed with, ate with, and prayed with, they would have been my enemy 70 years ago. It is hard for me to even conceive of that. Sometimes I struggle with the knowledge of that history and what it means for me here now. But for today I am thankful for the time that has passed and the reconciliation that has happened between our countries. I am thankful for the opportunity to know these amazing people, and I am thankful for the peace that we are constantly striving to obtain.