March 13, 2011


The images from Japan are wrenching. The destruction is beyond imagining. There are untold lives lost, and for the survivors, whole ways of life gone forever.

The earthquake and the tsunami did not happen here. The ground underneath my feet in my little neighborhood is stable, there is no radioactivity falling from the sky, houses sit firmly on their foundations. The devastation that I see on television is halfway around the world. And yet the faces that I see are the faces of my neighbors. Our ever-shrinking world brings us closer together. Sometimes that global closeness magnifies differences and conflicts. But sometimes it illuminates our common humanity.

Japan is not another world. Last week, I sat in a meeting with a colleague from the University of Tokyo who is back home – whatever that may mean for him now. My niece has traveled there; my friend’s sister has lived there. Fifty students and faculty from my school are there now, trying to figure out when and how they can leave.

The poet and preacher John Donne once said “No man is an island.” And no island, whether it is Japan or any other, separates us one from another. So our hearts break for our neighbors, our sisters and brothers, our unknown friends.

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