Thoughts On The Start Of A New Year

Thoughts On The Start Of A New Year

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Karleen C. Chinen

Commentary

Shinnen akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! Happy New Year to all of you!

If you were wondering what happened to your first Hawai‘i Herald issue of 2016, I apologize. Yes, it’s late. What a way to start a new year . . . and what a way 2015 ended for me. In early December, I developed a bacterial infection under my eye, which had me in my doctor’s office every day (including Christmas morning!) for several hours of intravenous treatments for three full weeks. With only two people putting together a bigger than usual New Year’s edition, the rule that no one can get sick at this time of the year went out the window. It only goes to show how counterproductive unrealistic rules can be in life.

Sitting in a doctor’s office with my laptop open, trying to edit with one hand and keep the other arm still because there’s a needle stuck in it, gave me time to think. The start of a new year always makes us feel like we have to make resolutions, and ambitious ones at that. Lose weight! Exercise! Quit smoking! Eat veggies! Clean the house! All good ones that we should try to follow through on.

But more manageable are the simple, every day ones, like being kinder to others, especially to our elders and those less fortunate; and expressing thankfulness and gratitude for simple kindnesses.

In November, I attended Kuakini Foundation’s “Holiday Trees and Treasures” fundraiser. One of the guests assigned to our table arrived about a half-hour before the event ended. Kuakini CEO Gary Kajiwara wanted to have his dinner brought out to him, but the guest, a prominent sansei businessman, politely declined. He said he had just left his mother at an assisted living facility and had eaten with her. “She won’t eat unless I eat,” he explained. And so he had eaten dinner with her, just so that his mother would nourish her body — all the while knowing that a delicious dinner awaited him at the Hilton Hawai‘ian Village.

I was really moved by what he said, in part because he didn’t make a big deal of it. I don’t know him personally, but I do know that his business is one of the most successful in Hawai‘i. He’s a busy guy who, besides running his business, serves on a number of nonprofit boards. He could easily have told his mother that he had to go to a dinner at the Hilton. But he took the time to eat with her, just to make sure that she ate her dinner. Nothing grandiose, just plain and simple love and caring for someone who has loved him and cared for him all his life.

We can resolve to thank people who stop and let us cross streets or parking lots, or who slow down and allow us to merge into the flow of traffic. I’m old enough to remember a time when a gesture of thanks was the norm in Hawai‘i. We’ve lost that . . . and our children are following our bad habits. They cross streets when the light clearly says, “Don’t walk,” and, even worse, they can’t take their eyes off their smartphone to apologize, or to say “Thank you” for letting them cross.

When I was growing up, I remember my mom lecturing us kids: “If someone lets you cross the street, make sure you say ‘Thank you,’ and don’t walk like a cow. Walk quickly.” When I see kids these days, I can still hear Mom’s voice.

As you will read in this issue, the Herald is launching a series of essays titled “Legacy of the Sansei.” It was the idea of Herald subscriber Gail Honda, and it’s an excellent one. Maybe articulating what we want to leave the Yonsei generation and those beyond — Japanese American and others — will help us chart that course, rather than living each day, each year, like the end will never come, and wishing at the end that we had more to leave them than material wealth, that we could leave them lessons of the heart and spirit.

Unlike the Nisei generation — “the Greatest Generation,” they are called in Hawai‘i and elsewhere — we haven’t had a defining moment in our lives, or so it would seem. No World War II to test our loyalty or character.

But that’s an easy out. That’s like saying we can meander through life and not leave anything for future generations because we never faced a defining moment type of conflict in our lives. Gen. Eric Shinseki always reminded us that he stood on the shoulders of those who came before him and that the successes he enjoyed in his life and career were the result of their sacrifice and hard work.

As we Sansei take our place on the shoulders of our Nisei parents, will those who follow us be able to stand upright on our shoulders? Or will they falter because the shoulders they are trying to stand are weak and crumbling? Something to think about and act on in 2016.

May the Year of the Monkey bring you and your loved ones good health and happiness. Onward to 2016!

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