kotoshimo yoroshiku onegaishimasu
It's long and sort of a tongue-twister but it's *very* important to remember to say. It's almost like making a first impression that's going to last for the whole year. As January wears on, it gets harder and harder to remember who I've met and who I haven't met and if I run into someone unexpectedly I get all flustered as I try to remember if we've run through this ritual yet this year.
But it's the beginning of the year so I'm still on the I-probably-haven't-seen-you-yet side of this tradition. On Monday morning, my neighbor friend stopped by my house to see if I could pick up her daughter from preschool when I get Misaki and as I opened the door I started in with the first part of the phrase and... she didn't say it back! I was even more flustered so I didn't say the second part and we just went on with our conversation. I asked how her winter vacation went and she said that her grandmother had died so most of the vacation had been taken up with the funeral and that it hadn't been as much fun for her kids. I made my condolences and as she left, I muttered the last part of the New Year's greeting and again, she didn't say anything. I was totally confused because she's the nicest lady in the world (way nicer than me!) and she's Japanese so why didn't she say it. This is the first time this had ever happened to me. I just couldn't figure it out.
On Tuesday after I came back from my English class (man, those kids were full of energy!) and our kids were in bed, Chikara told me that he had seen my friend's mom in the afternoon when he was outside with the kids and when he said the greeting to her she said that she couldn't return the greeting out of respect for her mother who had passed away recently. As he told me this, I had an a-ha moment. That's why my friend hadn't said it to me, either. Unfortunately, even after she told me that her grandmother had passed away, I didn't connect the two so I had spent the day wondering about it.
On Wednesday morning, when I saw my friend, I apologized and told her about my whole misunderstanding. She apologized too (we apologize a lot here) and we had a really great conversation about death, of all things. She and her family are not Christians and the whole thing had really freaked out her kids and caused them to ask questions that the adults didn't have answers to. She said that it must be different for us because we're Christians and I said that it's true, we view death differently. Obviously it's very sad and we grieve for our loss, but we are able to find hope and peace. The more I thought about it, I realized that I don't fear death. How can I? God has led us this far, why would he not have a plan for the rest of our lives, too?
Especially as a new year starts and people around me are making resolutions, this line of thought led me to think more about how I am using this life that I've been given. Am I doing what God wants me to do? I really hope so. Am I being a good steward of what He's given me? Most of the time. Am I having a good attitude along the way? hmm... next question. Is my heart in the right place? Man, these are tough questions. Not really an answer, huh? Um, not all the time. Do I love my neighbor as much as I love myself? I did learn a lot about myself last year in regards to this and I hope that the lessons learned help me care more for the people around me this year.
So in lieu of a New Year's resolution, I will hold onto the hope that as each year passes I am learning more and changing for the better. I think that's enough of a challenge, don't you? It can't be any harder than remembering the New Year's greeting!