A Simple Story about Sakura Petals and Physical Contact

Urayasu, Chiba Japan 2012

“We’re going on a walk,” My host mother says in Japanese, not the same day I arrive but on an afternoon when the sakura are in full bloom.  “Cherry Blossoms,” she says in English as if I can’t understand.  Because usually I can’t.

“Watashi mo!” I say and tag along down the concrete ramp.  She pushes my host father’s wheelchair in front of her.  We cross the street to the canal.  I walk beside my host father.  A white sheet covers his thin legs.  The wind is strong today.  It flaps and folds it over.  He struggles to pull the cloth back into place with his good hand.  I cover his knees but the wind keeps blowing.  Sakura petals fall like pink snowflakes.  My host mother wheels over the flowers on the sidewalk.

“My father was a fisherman,” she tells me simple stories in Japanese, “Once I went to Disney Sea.  They gave out free passes to all the people of Urayasu when it first opened.”

We pass a white cherry blossom tree.  “Beautiful, don’t you think?” She tilts her head over the chair to see the face of her silent husband who smiles and nods.  “Don’t you think?” She asks me.  I nod, too.

“I take a picture.”  She parks the wheel chair and pulls out her magenta camera.  “For your mother,” she says, “So she can see how beautiful they are.  How beautiful you are.”

I lean against the fragile frame of the tree.  Cheese.

“Now one with Masaki san,” she says and tucks me beside her husband’s chair.

Hope, I thought my hands could heal.  I though perhaps if I could rest a hand over the man’s shoulder he could rise dancing.  I didn’t want to do the Mexican hat dance over Japanese cultural boundaries.  I wanted to restore.

I place my hand on this man’s shoulder.  Before the camera snaps, I pull away.  I blush into the lens.

The next morning I watch Moko’s Kitchen like usual before class.  My mouth full of French toast made by my Japanese host mother.  I sprinkle more cinnamon over the yellow/brown bread.

“Deiji san,” she calls from the room, “Come here, please.”

She’s sitting on the edge of Masaki san’s bed.  “Come here,” she urges again. She faces him.  “He asked for you.”  But I have few words and he has none.

Instead he holds out his hand.  I take it.   I look at my Japanese father’s moistened eyes wishing I could tell him about the One who healed me.  But if I flew 13 hours for this moment alone, it was well worth it.

I know Christ healed two people that day: a tired stranger and a beautiful man, both longing for contact.  I have yet to see my host father rise from his chair and dance for the Lord.  But I am certain of this, God restores.  He has restored and he will continue to do his work in us and through us until the day of Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory forever and ever.

Foreigners, Slam Poetry and el “Dia del Turkey”

Gina Loring was the first slam poet I ever heard.  I was on a college visit to the small liberal arts school where I ended up spending the last three and a half years.  A small stage was set up with a tall microphone and a slender woman with powerful words.  “You move me.”  She wrote in the second person.  Speaking to someone in between us her audience.  “You move me like a long, cool drink of water after the steepest hike on the hottest day.”  Was she talking to us?  To man or to God? Continue reading