With the recent weather bringing deadly Hurricane Dorian plowing through the Bahamas and East Coast, followed by Category 4 typhoon Faxai here in Japan, I felt inspired to write about community.

This morning, after Faxai barreled through the the Yokosuka area with 130+mph winds, its eye reportedly only 2 miles off the coast of the Navy base, we went outside to assess the damage.  We live in a Japanese house off base, situated high on a hill and somewhat protected from winds because it is nestled between two higher hills.  Astonishingly, we found little real damage, just a ton of leaves and small limbs blown off the trees that surround us.  Unfortunately, the base fared much worse, with dozens of tree limbs broken off and entire trees completely uprooted, roofs and windows blown away, even some lightweight cars blown into others!  Construction areas flooded and debris was sent everywhere.  Not surprisingly, the schools and many other services were closed, and it was almost 11am before the “All Clear” was given for people to be out and about around the base.

When we went outside just a little past 8am, there was already a large working party of the neighbors, armed with rakes, straw brooms and trash bags, cleaning up the minor debris that littered our street and walkways.  There were 30-somethings, 70-somethings, and even teens.  Husbands and wives, and their kids.  It was pretty inspirational.  One of my teens immediately decided to go help, while the other needed a little coaxing.  Then, one of the teens and my three year old brought plastic cups of water out to people.  It was about 80 degrees and 80% humidity, but luckily a breeze remnant from the storm made it more bearable.  Looking around me as I stopped sweeping, I was so impressed by the spirit of cooperation, a shared desire to clean up the common spaces around our homes.  These Japanese neighbors frequently go out to clean up leaves and other minor weather related messes, and this large mess was no different, they just naturally came together and got it done!

What I saw this morning brought to mind a conversation that I wanted to have with my young teens about community.  I explained that community was how you have a family, when you are far from your own biological one.  That community is a group of people with commonalities that can work together for mutual benefit.  In this case, out of disorganization and leafy chaos, came a concerted group effort resulting in nearly 3 hours of raking and bagging nearly 3 dozen garbage bags of typhoon debris.  Now our street looks less like a typhoon went through and more like just a little bit of autumn leaves.

I reminded my kids that our military community is often described as family.  When something goes down, people flock together…when there’s a mishap that has injured or killed someone…when there’s an illness, surgery or baby’s birth…when Life happens, people flock together.  THIS is our community, and it feels great to be a part of it.

In 2011, my older daughter was 5.  She became hospitalized for 15 days with antibiotic resistant pneumonia.  Hubs was, of course, deployed.  My community stepped up in the biggest way to help out.  Some I asked specific things of, others just stepped in and started doing or giving in the most generous and thoughtful ways.  People watched my other small child and ferried him to and from preschool, others brought me decent food while I was in the hospital with my little girl, still others spent time with my daughter in the hospital room playing with her or watching tv so I could shower.  THIS is community!  

So whether it’s sweeping leaves after a typhoon, or watching someone’s kid, enjoy and be active in the community in YOUR world!  It will pay back in spades when you least expect it.

What have you done for your community?  How has it stepped up to help you?  Please share your experiences with us!  I’d love to hear about it!

Cheers and love,

Christine

2 Comments

  1. The sense of community that you described, working together for a greater or common good, is one of the things I truly admire about the Japanese people.

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    1. I agree! That is definitely a neat part of the culture here. Sadly I think many places are more on the vein of “what’s in it for me?” In RI after Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, a similar act of community happened in our military housing and people came out and started cleaning up branches together. Later I saw a shitty little post on the neighborhood FB page about why were we doing what maintenance gets paid to do?! I wanted to throat punch the author of that comment. Grrr. Let’s all act like we’re in this Life together, right?

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