One day a week, I take a subway and a bus to the other side of Sapporo and meet my kimono sensei’s husband at the bus stop. From there, we walk down the street, around the corner, and into their house. The three of us chat a little bit, sometimes with tea, then my teacher and I go upstairs where she teaches me different ways to tie the kimono obi. After class, we go downstairs and rejoin her husband. Then the three of us eat dinner, talking in Japanese and English, and laughing. In the end, her husband always walks me back to the bus stop.
These evenings have definitely become a highlight of life here, though I’ve often wondered why this sweet elderly couple feel the need for me to be picked up and dropped off at such a close bus stop. Eventually, while talking with Sandy,* a more experienced OMF missionary, I had an epiphany.
Sandy shared how in the beginning of her life in Japan, most of the connections she made with local people came about when she, as a newcomer, needed help. Sandy said she realised that people need to feel useful, and so when she needed help, that helped forge a connection with others. This put things into perspective for me.
I understand the desire to feel useful. In my home country, I knew I was useful. I could offer emotional support and be an ear ready to listen or a shoulder to lean on. It was clear where I fit into social groups. But here, in a culture and language that feel miles from my own, I often end a day feeling like the only thing I have offered to people is being a burden. I don’t feel like I’m useful to anyone. Perhaps, though, my seemingly uselessness is useful if it helps someone else, like my kimono sensei’s husband, feel useful.
The feeling of uselessness I walk around with is a humbling one. I constantly need to depend on others and most importantly, on Jesus, to get me through the day. Right now, my uselessness, and the humility to ask for help (or accept help I don’t always think I need) is all I have to offer. I think that is enough.
By Ashley, an OMF missionary
* Not their real name