Robert & Roberta Adair

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One of my first words in Japanese 4+ years ago literally translates as “carp banner.” I didn’t realize at the time that Children’s Day is a big deal here and that these banners are flown from schools, public buildings, and many homes. But I was a bit crabby that I could say “carp banner” before I could say “Can you help me?” “What is your name?” and “I don’t understand.”

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My friend, for B’s birth, made me this beautiful wall hanging from recycled kimono fabric. B’s birthday is right around the end of one school year and the beginning of the next, which is when Children’s Day is celebrated. For her, I believe she views his season of birth as related to what kind of a person he will become. Therefore, she believes that, like carp swimming upstream and against the current, B will become a person of “strength and courage.”

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Over the past years here, I’ve had a lot of scattered thoughts about Japan’s love of carp and culture of perseverance. People here are awesome at persevering in so many ways: people waiting in lines patiently, moms calmly caring for kids having tantrums (expressed exasperation doesn’t seem to be as common here), men and women working hard in companies, fisheries, construction, schools, restaurants, and convenience stores. The high standard of work ethic, dignity, and and will-do attitude (different than can-do attitude) is quite humbling for me to see. Even the difference of telling kids to “Ganbatte! (or “Persevere! Work hard!”) instead of“Have fun!” is quite interesting to me (note: I think fun is important. I think part of our role here in fact is to bring a little fun to a workaholic atmosphere).

Yet “going against the flow?” Hm. I’m sure I could be convinced otherwise, but I wouldn’t say this is particularly valued in Japanese culture. This is where I think Christians in Japan are like carp. Some are really swimming strong; yet for some, the current is almost too strong and they’re barely able to stay in place…

I just packed the wall hanging today. As I put it away not knowing where our next home will be, I prayed that both of our boys (and me!) will be people of courage and strength. Before J was born, a friend prayed that he would become a man of “courage and compassion,” which is a prayer I try to pray regularly over him. But I might adopt a “koi-no-bori koi-no-inori” (a carp banner carp prayer – um…my lame attempt at a Japanese pun) for the boys. Any input about teaching young gents to live with conviction and carp-like qualities in a context with very few Christians is appreciated.

Originally posted on Adair Update... http://bit.ly/2dhzcup

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