The Heart of Disaster

Red Cross Japan

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By now we all know about the disaster in Japan. A magnitude 9 earthquake followed by a tsunami with 30 foot waves and now an impending nuclear disaster. Every morning we turn on the TV to see images of whole villages swept away by giant waves and relief workers searching and searching. Every evening there are more images of the Japanese people hoping for news of their loved ones, living in shelters and fleeing from the radiation seeping out of the destroyed nuclear plant. Here in the U.S. we watch horror after horror unravel.

I watch the news wondering how a nation so destroyed by Mother Nature could ever hope to recover. Yet in the face of all this destruction, the Japanese people are showing us something amazing: a commitment to their community. I first heard about this strength of community on a news piece by Diane Sawyer for ABCNews . Diane illuminated incident after incident showing the world the Japanese tradition of generosity and their incredible resiliency. When the Japanese Prime Minister appeared on TV to explain that rolling blackouts would be necessary to conserve electricity, not only did cities and towns voluntarily set up their own scheduled blackouts but families and individuals have volunteered to turn off non-essential electricity despite chilly temperatures and many living in shelters. They stand in long lines, even women with young children in their arms, for two or three hours to get what little food is being handed out. They do not shove or complain, just wait patiently, with the belief that everyone needs just as much help as they do. There has been no looting or crime. A great deal of this community spirit comes from Shinto and Confucian traditions that ask people to consider community over the individual. No example is greater than the Fukushima Fifty, the nuclear power plant workers risking their lives through exposure to radiation to make sure that their community is saved. While their country is experiencing the worse disaster since the dropping of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese are showing such generosity and sacrifice for their families, neighbors and fellow countrymen. They have become a model for a community spirit.

Please consider donating to the earthquake relief funds. The easiest way to do so is by donating to the American Red Cross’s fund. You can go online to or text “Redcross” to 90999 to donate $10. Right now the Japanese are only accepting monetary donations. Please be careful before you donate to Japan; check out an organization’s legitimacy before you send any funds.

Besides donating, honor the Japanese by showing your community some extra kindness and generosity. Grab that old bag of clothes you’ve been meaning to donate and head over to Goodwill. Do something simple like check on an elderly neighbor or spend a Saturday morning at the soup kitchen. Be grateful that we have electricity, food, clean drinking water and a roof over our heads. Send your thoughts and prayers across the Pacific for our friends and neighbors in Japan.


Kendall Haring is a native Princetonian and is living in the area again after attending college outside of Washington, DC. She loves her job planning activities for seniors at a local assisted living, volunteering and exploring New Jersey and beyond. She believes in waking up happy and positively impacting everyone she meets. You can read more about her journey to lead a positive life and just have fun at The Lemonade Stand

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