February 27, 2018

My Tuesday night Japanese class in Okayama is incredibly diverse and always in flux. One week there might be two Chinese ladies in class. The next week maybe there’s some guy from Europe. Last week, four guys from Myanmar unexpectedly showed up and joined the class. The only constants seem to be my teacher and I.

Today, I was in class with the four guys from Myanmar. Our teacher was passing out the textbooks and apologized to them. She said that she only had textbooks in English. I thought about that for a moment. Thought back to other students in the class. It was true. Even the Chinese students had used English textbooks.

This has been a strange experience for me. Because of America’s influence, so much is catered toward us. On Sundays, I go to another Japanese class here in Kojima. Last week after class, the students and teachers all went to a doll festival here in town. After a drum performance, there were some remarks about how the group performing is trying to perform at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. One of the group stood up to translate the remarks, into English of course. She translated to English despite the fact that the majority of foreigners there weren’t from English-speaking countries.

The examples go on and on. I love the Marvel movies. I got to go and see Thor: Ragnarok here in Japan and I plan on going to see Black Panther when it comes out here next week. And I’ll be able to see it in English. There will be Japanese subtitles.

Things we do in America affect what happens in other countries. We set trends. We export our culture. I never considered this until I lived here.

This got me thinking about something else. Every day, we interact with people. Not even just our friends, but people at the store, people in line at the bank. How do our actions affect those people?

At my previous job, I’d take a lot of angry phone calls from people. Some people were upset over the most minuscule things. Things that were very obviously not my fault. But they wanted someone to take it out on. There I was on the other side of the phone. People could be incredibly rude and one incredibly rude person could really put a damper on my day. Every thing we do, even just the way we talk to people on the phone, can really affect people.

Jesus tells us to love others as we love ourselves. I wonder if it wouldn’t help if we were more cognizant of how our actions affect others. How can just being pleasant to people like the Starbucks barista help show the love of Christ? How can handling what really are minor inconveniences show that love? Think about that the next time the waiter messes up your order. Patience and love. And words seasoned with salt.

I’m going to try thinking about that this week.

-Kaleb

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