It's the time of year when everyone seems to be getting a little sick and maybe a little lonely. A pet store around the corner offered temporary relief. Lines of puppies and at the very end, two kittens, one of them a Maine Coon that looked at me inquisitively and took interest in the faces on my gloves. We played for a little while, enjoying one another's company. Pet stores have always been a sad thing for me, seeing the animals in such closed spaces, so tired and lonely. But today I felt that I saw eye to eye through the glass barrier as the reciprocation opened the realization of something not there. It was a joyous five minutes. I have to leave you now, I said. It was only partly true. As I left the store, I heard the shop workers call after me, Arigatougozaimasu! and I realized they had been there the whole time. I wonder how long I should wait before going back again. I wonder if they mind my insincere shopping. I'm clearly just a foreigner looking for affection.
Tonight was the annual HPAC Thanksgiving. A time of gathering together to celebrate an American holiday with our Japanese and international friends. We didn't get to the part where we say what we are thankful for, but certainly there was plenty of good food to enjoy, cuisine shared from around the world.
What is it that brings warmth and understanding to a place? What is kindness, what is sharing? When we give, why do we give? And when we receive, in what spirit are we receiving?
I'm grateful to have this period in my life, of feeling a little bit on the outside, of feeling a little bit lonely, in order to reflect on these questions and to gain greater empathy with those who experience them. And I'm grateful for the times in my life when I wouldn't imagine them to be possible because the giving and receiving come so freely. I'm very grateful to have my family, and I'm grateful to be able to feel love given to me and to feel that I am able to share it with others. Those that I love are very far away, and as grateful as I am to have this time in Japan, so too am I grateful for the times when I will be closer.