Upbeat Students

We’ve been distributing socks to schools and temporary neighborhoods recently. On June 1, Socks for Japan spent an entire day within the school system of Watari-cho, one of the first towns we visited back in March when tsunami water still stood on ruined roadways and dampened shelter floors.

Throughout this disaster, Japanese people have remained polite and upbeat. Teachers told us that students are helping each other get through it. Nobody makes fun of a classmate who lost a home. All are treated equally and the pace of education goes on.

Neighborhoods still look like this:

We asked junior-high students to raise a hand if they lost their home on March 11. Here’s the result:

They were happy to receive socks and letters, and even joked around with us.

Younger survivors are doing well, too.

At a kindergarten, one girl named Kotone asked me if I lived in a shelter. “No,” I said. She told me there was room at hers. “Thank you,” I said, “but I have a home in Sano. It wasn’t hit by the wave.” She nodded understandingly. “So that’s why you can bring all these nice socks,” she suggested. I agreed. Here she is during our conversation:

A girl named Rina motioned me to her table and said, “I’m not making this up, I’m very honest, I don’t lie, really, and what I want to tell you is that I love pink socks. I really, really, really love pink socks. I love pink anything, I guess, but what I especially love is pink socks. How did you know I love pink socks?” I told her it was because all girls named Rina love pink socks and we heard from far away that one in Watari-cho didn’t have any. “You mean me?” she asked. “Yes. There are no other Rinas in this town.” She thought carefully, then said I just might be right. Here she is at her table:

Thanks to socks and letters sent from around the world, we can make the days of kids like these a little bit brighter even as they do the same for us.

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18 Comments

  1. Posted June 29, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing news and photos of your latest trip. These children are incredible! What they have been through is unimaginable, yet they smile, laugh and joke. Thank you for your incredible efforts in making their day just a little happier! They are gorgeous!

  2. Bill Baker
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    You are doing wonderful things in Japan, Jason. The Universe is very appreciative of your work and efforts!!

  3. Geiru'
    Posted June 30, 2011 at 2:55 am | Permalink

    Awesome kids! – Awesome work :o)

  4. Marci
    Posted June 30, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    It makes me really happy when I receive updates on how people at the shelters are doing. Everyone involved have kind hearts, and the people receiving socks are just wonderful. It really brings tears to my eyes at the kindness and hospitality of children and everyone who are coping together.

  5. Shannon Brown
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    The stories and pictures of the children are so touching…I especially love your conversaation with Rina!!!

    • Posted July 4, 2011 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Me, too, Shannon. You would melt if you saw her in person. She’s the most huggable little bundle you’ve ever met, all giggles and weird comments and melodrama that leave you almost falling on the floor. What a great kid in a tough time!

  6. Joanne Baek
    Posted July 3, 2011 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I have two comments. The first is a dream I should have expressed in my letters sent with socks.

    There is a young people’s novel and movie called Pay It Forward. It’s about a seventh grader who comes up with the idea of asking people to repay favors times three, but to other people, not to himself. In the story it is supposed to be something big, but starting small is good too! The idea is that 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 pretty soon becomes the whole world. So in my idea, I could have told people this story, and told them that if they liked this idea, to try to find–when they are able!!–three people who need socks and provide them. Or, if they can’t find people who need socks, to change it to something else. And encourage those recipients, if they are excited about the idea as well, to “pay it forward” times three as well.

    At the end of April, someone who had been given two pair of socks with hearts on them, gave one pair to me. Like Rina, who loves pink socks and anything pink, I love anything with hearts and was delighted with this spontaneous gift of socks with hearts on them. When I heard of Socks for Japan I wanted so much to send socks with hearts on them, but there were none anywhere in my area. Finally I sent what was locally available. If Socks for Japan needs socks next fall, I promise you, I will send some socks with hearts on them!!

    But my main point here is that if some recipients were excited by the pay it forward idea, and I had brought it up, maybe we’d have a chain of socks-giving that starts with Drea from Ontario, to Joanne from New Mexico, to ___ and ___ and ___ (etc.–I helped get 58 pairs sent with the help of others) in Japan, to people all over the world until there is no one left in the world needing socks. And meanwhile other spinoff chains of giving would have branched off as well. Pretty soon the whole world?

    My other comment is specifically to Jason… Jason, I hope from the deepest part of my heart that you will assemble all your photographs and writing into a book and publish it asap (you can do a sequel later) because this approach to stepping in and doing what you can do, and helping connect eager helpers to eager recipients is a great model for spontaneous, loving, yet organized helping. It is so much what we need to feel we can do, and in fact, it turns out we can do. I’m sorry I got started so late, right at the shipping deadline. But I’m so grateful I had the chance!!

    Thank so SO much for the opportunity and all the good it is doing.

    • Posted July 4, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      You’re most welcome, Joanne. It has been inspiring to see the worldwide effort behind Socks for Japan. Many Japanese recipients have taken our hands and cried while telling us how touched they are to receive hand-picked socks and handwritten letters from overseas.

      Recently, the message from recipients has changed tone. Now that four months have passed, people are shocked that international volunteers continue showing up at shelters, schools, and temporary neighborhoods. People are telling us, “If this disaster had happened in another nation, I’m not sure we would have responded as kindly as others have responded for us. We are deeply touched, and in awe. Thank you!”

      Touching is, indeed, the sentiment. There is a magic around strangers helping strangers around the world, and occasionally becoming friends in the process. So far, one marriage has resulted from the legions of volunteers pouring into Japan’s disaster zone. A Japanese woman volunteered to help and ended up marrying a Japanese man who’d lost his home in the tsunami. It made the news.

  7. Akemi Hashiba
    Posted July 16, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    I’m a teacher at Arahama J.H.S in Watari-cho, who strongly asked you to join
    our class .
    I really appreciate that you had a wonderful time with students
    and thank you so much for your support.
    It has been so hot but students are quite well and they are trying to do their best.
    Softball team and Tennis team for girls came in first at the tournament in Watari and
    Yamamoto district.
    I hope they can see you again and try to communicate IN ENGLISH ON THEIR OWN.

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