by Alma R. H. Reyes
“Windows work two ways,
mirrors one way.”
- by singer Jim Morrison
Jingle bells…jingle bells…as Christmas draws near, we cannot help but reflect on the events of the year—the good that came with the bad, the bad that came with the worse—and how we fit in every piece of it.
There was the huge flood in Brazil; the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine; the death of Osama Bin Laden (or they say); the terrorist attack in Norway; the death of Amy Winehouse; the overthrow of Libyan leader Gaddaffi’s government; hurricanes in the U.S.; Nadeshiko Japan’s women’s world soccer cup; violent riots in the UK; the new Japan PM Noda; floods, typhoons, earthquakes everywhere; the devastating loss of Apple Co.’s Steve Jobs; and of course, for us in Japan, no one can deny the colossal effect of the big Tohoku Kanto earthquake and tsunami of March 11.
I sat one afternoon with some friends in Tokyo as we reminisced our personal accounts of that unforgettable day; of how one of us saw the Landmark Tower in Yokohama sway from left to right; of how another friend rushed in panic and tears from her 7th floor apartment down to the ground floor; of how for almost four weeks, we all slept (or not slept) in our day clothes, next to the 24-hour television or online computer that sent out earthquake alerts almost every ten minutes to the nostalgic “beep-beep…beep-beep” signal; and how, until today, many of us still keep our emergency bags by our front door, never knowing when they can be discarded away. At home, I have not put back the picture frames, ceramics, statuettes, and other trinkets on the console table, nor ceramic plates on the wall. Truly, after March 11, it feels like the “old” life is never to be seen again.
MAD ABOUT “AMADO”
But, Christmas is a time to overcome misfortunes and miseries; it s a time for hope, they say. It is also a time to perform “neighborly” deeds, and in the Philippines, you cannot ignore your neighbors during Christmas time because everyone asks for a “pa-
masko!” So, I am reminded of a conversation I had with a Japanese friend who interestingly gave me fresh insights about Japanese neighbors and the amado that seems to be part of Japanese “neighborly” life.
Alam niyo ba ang “amado?” This is the window shutter, normally in steel, that you find encased to your large windows, especially that facing a veranda or a garden. It is raised up or pulled down in an accordion fashion, or sideways like a sliding door. Well, you may be surprised to learn how a single architectural structure as the amado could dictate the way Japanese neighbors behave towards you.
My friend happens to visit her mother every weekend, and says she is constantly harassed by her mother’s old-time neighbors when they find out when she is or is not around by the simple sound of the amado. When the mother is alone in the house, the amado is usually never pulled down. So, when my friend visits her mother, she raises the amado, and the next day, the neighbors would tell her, “Oh, you have come to visit your mother, heh.” When she doesn’t visit her mother for some time; and, therefore, leaves the amado up, on her next visit, the neighbors would say, “Oh, you haven’t visited your mother in a month.” When she is around, and comes home late at night, she shuts down the amado. The next morning, her neighbors would tell her, “Oh, you came home late last night, huh, past 11 p.m.” On some mornings, she would wake up late, and raise up the amado. Again, the neighbors would say, “Oh yesterday, you slept all morning, didn’t you?” My friend jokingly concluded, “Amada wa urusai.” (The window shutter is a nuisance.”) And, because of this, she has refrained from visiting her mother so often.
So now, you see how this amado can predict everything that goes on in your life! If you keep your amado shut all day, your neighbors can easily suspect you are out all day and night—either that, or something suspicious is happening inside your house! The amado makes such a huge noise that your neighbors can easily predict the time you wake up, sleep, leave the house, and return. The part of my friend’s story that amused me is when her other friend, also harassed by the amado (or the consequences of having one), was so irritated that she practically had it dismantled completely. Ha! Now, that was certainly being mad about the amado!
So, be careful! Unless you have a powerful device to move your amado in silent mode, how often you use it could actually either strengthen or strain your neighborly relations.
Have a “neighborly” Christmas!
The Gift of Pain
by Maria Carmelita Z. Kasuya
Gifts come in different sizes, some beautifully wrapped, others simply. Usually, gifts delight us because gifts make us feel we are remembered, we are loved. However, we focus ourselves with the gift and not the giver, nor the thought behind.
A gift of pain? Yes, God’s gift of pain. No matter how beautifully wrapped, pain in any form is something that we would not like to receive as a gift (return to sender if possible!). First, we do not know how to deal with it. Why God sent it is another thing we reckon with.
Pain is universal. It is an integral part of life. No one is spared from pain that could be physical, emotional, or spiritual. The natural reaction is to alleviate pain immediately. Rather than protesting about pain or sulking in misery, we can come to a place of acceptance and take the challenge. Instead of asking, “How can I get over it?” it would be best to see God’s perspective of pain and say, “What is the Lord trying to teach me?” The reality is that pain could be a blessing in disguise. If it comes from the Lord, it must be good. As always, Father knows best! He gave it and He will see us through. He loves us completely and wants only the best for us.
Pain draws us apart from worldly cares and brings us closer to God. God’s gift of pain could be His wake-up call to remind us that
(a) The body we are blessed with is the temple of the Holy Spirit and should be taken cared of.
(b) Life is short, life is a mystery – you never know what will happen tomorrow so why worry? Instead, live today to the fullest.
(c) While we are preparing for our final destination, we should be faithful to our respective call in life and do things with love. God does not demand success, only faithfulness.
Pain could be an instrument to journey back to our faith. God’s gift of pain sometimes put life on halt temporarily for us to be able to
(a) Reflect and get a better view of the direction that the Lord wants us to go.
(b) Pause from the daily routine, count the blessings and bask in God’s love.
(c) Forge the relationship with Him that is based on trust. He is a faithful God and will never abandon us. We are not alone in pain and suffering.
Welcome pain and suffering as God’s way of humbling us before Him so He may mold us. Experience is a very good teacher and the experience of God’s gift of pain
(a) Allows us to grow in virtue of faith and hope, patience and endurance, obedience and humility.
(b) Shapes us into the kind of person more pleasing to Him.
(c) Brings new meaning to our existence – living for others. In the process, experiencing God’s healing presence equips us so we may also be healers - wounded healers for those in pain.
Jesus understands what we are going through when we are in pain. He himself experienced pain and suffering on the cross for a purpose. So when the Lord sends a gift of pain to your doorstep, accept it and trust in the Lord’s wisdom. God’s gift of pain - He personally wrapped for you because He thinks you are special. You are loved.