This I Believe

Shareen - Ojai, California
Entered on May 2, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: gratitude

This I believe Essay-

During the years of 1979 to 1984 I performed in Japan and my fondest dream was to sing at the World Peace Conference in Hiroshima. In 1984 I was invited by the World Peace Association (Gensuikyo) to perform in a national tour across Japan as a means of involving young people in the peace movement. It was my custom to donate the beautiful flowers I received after performances to patients in local hospitals. From this action the Japanese people understood I might be amenable to performing impromptu at local convalescent centers. It was thus how I found myself on a hot July afternoon, singing at a center located in a rural area on Shikoku Island. The residents suffered serious disabilities from muscular dystrophy and I sang to them in their “coffee room”. After my performance, I was approached by staff who requested that I sing for one man who was too ill to go to the coffee room. I accepted and was ushered into the room of a frail, young Japanese gentleman. He was very thin, bald and surrounded by tubes and machines, which kept him alive. I was told that he was 25 years old and his entire life had been spent in his bed in that room. Uunable to walk or sit, or to use any of his muscles, his eyes, his mind and his voice were very much alive. I was overwhelmed. I wanted so much to give him something special. I felt sadness that my Japanese was so limited and I wished that I could sing to him in his native tongue. I decided to sing a “Beatles Medley” that I had comprised of the songs “Nowhere Man, Here, There and Everywhere and Yesterday”. As I sang the songs, he smiled and tears streamed from his eyes. I was alarmed – had I upset him? He spoke and someone translated – “Thank you so much – I could never dream someday a beautiful American woman would come to my room and sing my favorite songs!” They went on to explain that this man had been confined to his bed from birth. His only experience of the world is what he watched on TV and what was read to him from books. It was his desire to make his mark on the world, to participate in some way. Through that desire he had written poems, sharing his spirit and his perspective on life, from his bedside. Those poems were published into a book. I was told it was a book of love and gratitude. He gave me a copy of that book, stating “maybe someday you can make a song from one of my poems”. That moment was pivotal. How easy it would have been for him to be bitter. He chose instead to feel love and gratitude, and to share a part of himself with others. In the following years, whenever I found myself feeling depressed or resentful of what life brought me, I would remember this man, who had every reason to feel self-pity and chose instead to liberate his spirit with love and gratitude. I would then count my blessings, instead of dwelling on my complaints. I went on to become a true “troubador”, constructing songs from the stories of others meaningful life experiences and recording them for the learning and the benefit of the rest of us. I have been blessed with this gift from the “nameless” Japanese man and I am truly amazed at the capacity of the human spirit for unlimited love and gratitude. I know that in the future, there is a song just waiting to be transcribed from his book- and I will sing his song.