Recently I watched a television program that featured singer/songwriter Tatsuya Ishi’i, a well-known performer in Japan, working with children who had experienced the earthquake and tsunami a year ago. The broadcast was part of a series of reports on a program in which professionals return to their elementary school or high school to work with students on a project.
Mr. Ishi’i’s project was to write a song compiled from the children’s impressions or experiences last year during and after the disaster. Every child contributed something except for one student. Her notebook was empty. She couldn’t find any words. That empty page in the notebook spoke more than the words would have, and Ishi’i, too, became speechless, feeling the depth of what these children had gone through.
After he set their contributions to music, he asked the class what they wanted to call the song. To his surprise, the student with the blank page in her notebook raised her hand and said, “Sekai ni arigato,” “Thank you for the world.”
She then began to speak. The song reminded her that as soon as boxes of supplies began to arrive with relief aid from other countries, she noticed many boxes had pictures of different flags on them, representing the country the box came from. Many children for the first time realized they were part of a much bigger world – people who looked different and spoke different languages cared about them. These boxes became the ambassadors. And the children, in turn, began to act as ambassadors to those in their community.
In the news, we saw children in upper-grade schools caring for senior citizens – talking with them and giving them shoulder and back rubs after they’d sat and slept on the hard gym floor for days, sometimes weeks.
Many interviews showed how quickly these children matured, not in the sense that they wanted to act like adults, but that they were able to unselfishly discern others’ needs. The ability to act unselfishly is innate in every child. This ability is a spiritual quality – part of the nature of God’s children, who belong to His caring and harmonious family.
Ishi’i recently commented on his project with these children. He said we need to protect and care for them, cherish and honor them more. It’s not that children can easily rise above stress and challenges, but the natural inclination of these children who faced disaster was to find goodness and hope even in the midst of it.
This comment brings to mind something Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote: “Children should be allowed to remain children in knowledge, and should become men and women only through growth in the understanding of man’s higher nature” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 62). It is not by adding years that we grow but by understanding man’s spiritual nature. The way the children responded to others indicates to me that they acted upon their spiritual nature.
That interview also reminded me of Christ Jesus’ response to his disciples’ question about who would be greatest among them. He called a little child to him and said, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest” (see Luke 9:46-48, New International Version).
As these children give deepest gratitude to the world, I would like to give thanks to them – to the children who have brought back joy to many affected areas and to families who had to move from their hometowns because of radiation pollution. When I see children looking forward to so much good in their lives even when they don’t see it yet, I am reminded of this Bible verse: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Children live now – this very moment – to detect goodness, blessings, and gratitude. They feel generous and innately know unconditional love for all. They want all to receive the good they feel and have.
So thank you, not just to the children here in Japan, but to all the children in the world. You may be small, but you are a very bright light that everyone can see. And you help make adults more closely united. Although at times you may seem to be least, you are greatest in our world.
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