Note: This article was the first one written following the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.
Just over a year ago, I was writing here about the disaster caused by a huge earthquake in Haiti. A few months later, there was another big earthquake in Chile. And then, not long ago, there was another one in New Zealand.
As I wrote then, when a disaster strikes people on the other side of the world, it's easy to think "that's so far away". Well, maybe it always used to seem like that to me. But once you've seen it happen where you live, it's not far away at all... and I guess you can never see things the same way again.
In all of these disasters across the world, and many others as well, Japan has always been one of the most generous countries of all in providing assistance. I think I now know why that is. In Japan, people know just how powerful and destructive earthquakes can be. It doesn't seem as though it's far away, because everybody knows it can happen here. And it does... and it did.
I have to get most of my news in English, which means I get the news from Canada, from England, from the USA, and so on. Watching how the media in these other countries have reported on the earthquake here, I've noticed something quite moving.
For one thing, of course, other countries all over the world are offering assistance to Japan. Everybody who's ever received help from the Japanese wants to repay that kindness, from Indonesia to Haiti to Afghanistan. But there's something else as well. Around the world, everyone is admiring the Japanese people for how well they have reacted to this emergency.
I don't just mean the way the response has been organized. It's the attitude of the Japanese people that everyone admires. Again and again, I see people in other countries saying how amazed they are because the people here have been so calm, responsible, dignified and polite, even through these hardships. "People would never be so responsible in our country," they say. "There would be riots, looting, panic, and chaos." From all over the world, I hear people saying "we should learn from Japan's example".
There's no doubt that Japan now faces great challenges. But everyone agrees, the spirit of the Japanese people will allow them to meet those challenges better than almost anyone else on Earth.