Saturday, April 13, 2013

Wisdoms You Never Knew

Every Monday morning, nearly 600 uniformed students gather in a large gym or a field in Japanese Schools.  As a student, it was not necessarily an impressive event that I looked forward to at times.  Just standing behind someone and looking at her head all the time, besides a teacher on the front stand, was plain tiring and boring among rows of students who are lined from short to tall in each classroom.  I was always in the middle of the line.  Because of the lengthy lectures and too much heat, a girl in front of me often fainted.  My role was to catch her body before she hit her head severely on the ground.  One or two teachers would run toward us right away, and luckily for her, she didn't have to be in the assembly anymore.  I heroically caught her in my arms but I wasn't allowed to accompany her to the nurses office.  Back to standing in line just like nothing happened before, hoping I was going to be the one who would faint next.

Despite the unwillingness of my participation, the whole school morning assembly was something that was important and that must take place, according to teachers.  So I listened to the principal on that day.  A gray-haired middle age gentleman who never had any conversation with me in person, stepped up three steps onto the stand.  As soon as he stepped forward to the microphone, the principal and everyone under him bowed at each other. "Good Morning!"  Here is his story;

Long ago, there was an apprentice in the bamboo craft shop.   His responsibilities as an apprentice freshman overwhelmed him.  Waking up at 4:30 am, boiling water, starting rice for breakfast, cleaning the craft chief's room, polishing tools before the senior apprentices appeared, fetching the bamboo for crafts, babysitting for the master's two young children, fixing lunches, bringing snacks and tea to all workers, and on and on and on.....until his entire body and mind were beyond ready to rest at night.  One day, he was too tired to do all the chores.  "Why do I have to sweep the entrance every morning and evening?  People are coming in and out.  Right after I clean here, they throw their shoes every time anyway."  He announced to his master, "Master, I am not going to sweep the entrance from next morning."  Master said, "O.K"  The apprentice smiled, "It was pretty easy."    Happily, the apprentice slept in until everybody was at the breakfast table.  He noticed there was no food on the spot he was supposed to sit.  "Master!  The cook forgot my meal."  As soon as his eyes met his Master, the Master calmly responded, "Well, why do you have to eat breakfast when you will become hungry again anyway?"  The apprentice's face turned red.  The master continued softly, "Every instance of discipline takes perseverance.  If you choose to neglect the hardship, you wouldn't accomplish." 

The principal concluded this story with, "You might have something similar experiences on your own.  If you think something is not necessary, think one more time.  What is challenging you will be more essential in the process than you have valued before when you think back. Great discipline will lead you success.  Be patient.  Be consistent." 

This was one of only few stories that impacted my young brain from hundreds of Monday morning assemblies.  Who would remember stories I tell and what would be useful among a large number of students?  Essentially, I could be the apprentice story of my previous, current, and future students.  Responsibility on my shoulders is heavy.  And I am very lucky to be a part of their lives.