Grace - A disposition to be generous or helpful; goodwill.
This week I’ve been thinking a lot about grace. I’ve had a stark comparison as I watch how the Japanese people handle stress and catastrophe; hands and arms wide open, giving all they have to strangers who may be in need, even whilst they are in desperate need and pain themselves. I see them extending that helping hand at their own risk, refraining from looting and stealing from the innocent. Japanese vandalism rates are among the lowest in the world and in fact, it has the second lowest homicide rate.
This is grace in its deepest sense. This is a culture that grows grace from birth and teaches its people to be thoughtful of others, even putting them first.
Japan’s population density is 336 people per square km. In reality it probably feels a lot denser given only 18% of its land mass is non mountainous. Compare this to Canada’s 3 people per square km and in Canada we’re apparently getting in each other’s way already. This week I felt ashamed of how immature and self centred we are here. Putting them first? Do we know this idea in North America? This I pondered with a friend as we looked out the window, waiting for breakfast to be delivered to the table the other day.
In a few short moments of looking for grace in our sphere of influence I observed a mature man honking his horn in protest at a car that had stopped to let an elderly gentlemen cross the street. I saw a mother who clearly had no patience left for her kids walking at an adult pace, kids several meters behind her on a busy city sidewalk. The children were so despaired they literally sat down on the sidewalk and cried. Everyone just walked by. The Mother-Child gap grew wider by the second. Aren’t the adults supposed to be teaching the children how to behave? Is this community? Is this grace?
Imagine a class room without a guardian. We all remember days when we had a supply teacher in school because the regular teacher was sick. They were there to instil order, to make sure mayhem didn’t break out. Did you know in Japan there is no such thing as supply teachers? The class takes care of itself. There is leadership within, grace within.
Japan is of course, not perfect. It has one of the highest suicide rates on the planet – ringing in at #5. As a country they are the largest consumer of Amazon rainforest timber. And of course, there’s The Cove.
But here’s the thing - Its literacy rate is nearly 100%, its life expectancy one of the highest in the world and 90% of its population considers itself to be part of the middle class. I do believe if there are consumerism atrocities being committed by the Japanese; it is largely without their knowledge as a people. The entire world community needs to be educated about the impact we’re having on earth and it’s up to all of us to get that message out and grow personal accountability. I’m beyond believing our governments are going to do that for us. When we’re educated, we can extend grace out to all areas of our lives.
Where does it start? Grace within.
My heart continues to go out to the people of Japan. There are numerous organisations collecting relief funding to help them rebuild and recover. I encourage you to support at least one of them. I also encourage you to avail yourself of the lessons and examples we are fortunate to witness from the Japanese people. May grace be bestowed upon us.