Japan Wishes It Was Godzilla

Japan wishes it was Godzilla that caused the destruction because then this would be nothing more than a movie. The loss of life and destruction would disappear at the end of the movie and people would resume their lives as if nothing happened. The scale and the scope of this disaster make it seem surreal. It is hard to wrap our heads around this. I have watched many of the videos many times and been transfixed by them. Today I watched a CNN report about one man who left to do his part to help people out and came back to discover that his whole family had been wiped out.

You can call him heroic for his actions but watch him on the video and you don’t need to understand Japanese to see his profound grief. I can’t imagine it. I am no different than any other parent, the thought of losing a child is the most horrific thing I can come up with. He lost his kids and his grandchildren. Sadly he is one of the many who find themselves trying to come to grips with their new reality. Were I a newscaster trying to tell a story I would play the videos and sit in silence because they tell the story better than my words could.

But I am not a newscaster. I am a father who has had to sit with his children and talk about what happened. I am a dad whose 6.5 year-old daughter is afraid of the beach now. She said that she was worried about getting caught by a tsunami. Her older brother said that he wasn’t worried and then looked at me for support. I could see from the look on his face that he wasn’t 100 percent certain about not being worried, but he didn’t want his little sister to be nervous.

It was another Teaching Moment, but one that I wanted to approach with a softer touch. I have lived through many earthquakes, been through a few 7s and and many smaller than that. If you are familiar with the Richter Scale than you understand that a 7 isn’t anything to turn your nose up at. Talk to those of us who went through the Northridge Earthquake and many will tell you about how it scared them. The difference in size and scale between Northridge and Japan is immense. What happened in Japan is an earthquake of biblical proportions.

And when you add the tsunami plus all of aftershocks I have to say how impressed I am with Japanese engineering. The nuclear reactor situation is quite serious, but the fact that they weren’t just wrecked is amazing to me.

None of that is appropriate for my children. They are not old enough to appreciate the distinction between a big earthquake and one that is enormous. So I told them just enough to make them feel comfortable. I need for them to sleep at night and not to worry about our trips to the beach. So after we talked about it we spent a few minutes talking about whether there were things we could do to help Japan. It fits with our discussions about giving back. It also offers a segue into Big Little Wolf’s post about whether giving is complicated.

She asks whether it is easy to give or complicated. My answer is that it is not hard to give at all. The only complication is trying to decide where, when and how. To me that is the big question, how to sift through it all of the causes and decide who gets what. As a father my primary concern is different. As a father I worry about making sure that my kids understand the importance of looking out for others. I don’t want us to live in a bubble. It bothers me that sometimes the homeless people blend into the street corners and freeway off ramps.

I remember when it was shocking to see them- it is not anymore. There is something very sad about that.

So I see my job as teaching my kids to step out of our bubble. I see my job as making sure that I step out of my bubble. We donated some money to the Red Cross. Truth is that I am not a huge fan, but I wanted to do something for Japan and I know that they are helping. But I also want my kids to see that the solution is not to throw money at problems. So we have helped stock shelves at soup kitchens and participated in other activities that involve our doing something active. Action makes a difference and if I have done my job correctly that is a lesson that the kids will take to heart.

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  1. Stan Faryna March 23, 2011 at 12:46 am

    Awesome post, Jack.

    I find your writing in this post to be powerful, engaging and balanced.

  2. Seattledad March 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Yeah, it has been very sobering to watch what little of it I have seen. We let Lukas watch a couple of clips of the wave and he just looked at it puzzled, while we attempted to explain. As he gets older I imagine it will get harder and harder to satisfy his curiosity and fear of what can happen.

    Good writing Jack.

    • Jack March 18, 2011 at 6:21 pm

      It is sort of a mixed bag. My ten year-old has pretty good reasoning skills. It was much easier for him to understand the cause and effect of all this than his little sister. The world can be fascinating, but kind of scary too.

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