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Picture of Kindness #2: A Gift from a Japanese Lady and a Flying American Boy

Contributed by David Haro, New York Youth Association


The boy in this “picture” is nearly four years old and is playing airplane. His roaring, jubilant engine glides on outstretched feather-like arms through the courtyard of Ogen’in, Shinnyo-en’s Buddhist temple complex in Tachikawa, Japan. His name is Keni. David, his father, likes to call him “the Kenster.”

That October morning in 2009, David tells me, was “beautiful, like Indian summer in America.” He was talking with Nik, a friend of ours, while the Kenster flew in loops, not ready for landing yet. Both Nik and David had flown in from America with their respective wives (both Japanese natives) and firstborn sons for a special ceremony. Nik had become a father earlier that year. They recall talking about how difficult it is sometimes to take young children to places, especially religious services, where the mood is usually subdued, particularly in Japan, where the culture generally tends to be more solemn than in America.

Noticing that some bystanders did not appear thrilled by the Kenster’s aeronautical display, David recalls extending a hand toward the Kenster whenever he came near, to slow him down a bit, but his flying boy went on, undeterred, engrossed in fun aerodynamic maneuvers. At some point in his conversation with David, Nik recalls, an older Japanese lady appeared in the picture, approaching the Kenster’s flight path, as if to intercept him, Nik thought. Tensing up, Nik admittedly expected the lady to stop poor Kenster and give him a talking-to. After all, the setting was not really a playground.

David also notices the lady and winces, anticipating his son’s seemingly inevitable collision with her midsection. Thankfully, the Japanese lady stops short and the Kenster halts his engine immediately, as alert and mindful as a three-year old can be. The lady, who appears to be nearly five feet tall and in her 50’s, smiles and gets down on one knee, making herself his height. Neither Nik nor David can make out what she might be saying to the now motionless boy. Then, in an instant, they see her bend down even lower to tie young Kenster’s shoelaces.

David and Nik look at each other then, pleasantly surprised by the unexpected coming together of the “solemn” Japanese lady and the flying American boy—their different generations and cultures now intertwined by one kind memorable gesture.

This is David Haro’s second contribution in a year-long “Picture of Kindness” series intended to honor Shojushin’in Sama, the model of embracement (shoju) and spiritual mother of the Shinnyo-en sangha, in the year of the centennial anniversary of her birth. They are meant as gifts: for her and those who also inspired and shared them with me, and for anyone who reads them. In sharing these gifts, these small acts of kindness performed, witnessed and honored by ordinary people, may we continue the momentum of their gentle ripples.