At the end of next month, I was asked to recite a poem, Ame ni mo makezu, written by one of the most well-known poets in Japan, Miyazawa Kenji at a morning assembly of an elementary school. This poem must have been translated into English by more than several writers but this latest version was published by a publisher in Kunitachi where I work. The head master found the newspaper article about this book of the poetry and ordered it to share with children. In the previous year, he asked all the students to recite the original poetry and most of students have learned by heart. When he got the book, he had an idea to exploit the beauty of humble Japanese spirit into the language learning via bilingual reciting sessions. I was impressed with his passion and agreed to help his project. So, from next week, I will introduce this poem to the 5th graders and have them recite some lines in order to have a collaborative reciting session at the end of Feb in their English class. In order to introduce it to children, I started practicing,
Rain won't stop me.
Wind won't stop me.
Neither will driving snow.
Sweltering summer heat will only raise my determination.
This kind of Japanese spirit can be witnessed in some areas of the post-modern society but it can be considered as out-dated and even too self-sacrificing. In fact, my spoilt mind, brought up in the post-modern era started to think, "Emm...this sounds amazing but I would like to stop when it rains so hard and the summer heat will definitely eliminate my determination..." But when I got to the following lines, I stopped reading and started thinking about a person I met at the first JALT conference back in 2011 that I participated as a volunteer.
With a body built for endurance,
a heart free of greed,
I'll never lose my temper,
trying always keep
a quiet smile on my face.
I didn't know who he was but a tall and big person with a warm and gentle smile on his face, came up to me after having the chaotic lunch curry task. The lunch duty was just like a nightmare with storm of complaints due to the errors we have made. We, the student volunteers, felt incompetent and completely down at that time. My stress level reached at the maximum and lost the excitements I felt in the morning because of the major mess we couldn't manage to handle well. Then, this person gave me a quiet smile and said in a quiet tone without any hints of sarcasm,
I was quite amused. I ordered seafood curry but I discovered it was chicken in my curry later. (chuckled pleasantly) Very mysterious and interesting lunch. Thank you.
That kind of humor in his words was exactly what I needed to hear then. Because of his words and presence, I managed to spend a superb time with other volunteers for the rest of the day. To my surprise, I found out that this person was the president of JALT much later. I didn't get a chance to thank him in person for his consideration and the quiet smile.
I will learn this poem by heart in memory of this gentle man with the quiet smile and a heart free of greed and anger, Mr. Cleary.
All this is my goal - the person
I wanted to become.