The Moore American

April 1, 2014

Students thank Japanese supporters

By Jay Chilton
The Moore American

MOORE — Sugiyama Lebra, author of “Japanese Patterns of Behavior” defines Omoiyari as “the ability and willingness to feel what others are feeling, to vicariously experience the pleasure or pain that they are undergoing and to help them satisfy their wishes ... without being told verbally.”

The students of Chiyoda Junior High School in Osaka, Japan, launched Operation Omoiyari in response to the May 20 tornado to extend the ancient and revered concept of altruistic sensitivity to Moore students.

Chiyoda students knew Moore students’ despair from their own tragedy on March 11, 2011, when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake resulted in a tsunami, which the Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan called the toughest and most difficult crisis for Japan since the end of World War II.

Students in Debbie Taran’s physical education class at Highland East Junior High in Moore responded to letters of support from Chiyoda Junior High students Thursday with stickers, ink-stamped hearts, well-wishes and thanks. Many of the Moore students were impressed by the care of the Japanese students in the wake of mutual disaster.

“I think we really relate to them. They know what we’re going through and we know what they’re going through,” Jillian Olguin said as she placed a sticker on her card.

She said she was aware of the tsunami when it happened in 2011, but the thought of such a disaster affecting her personally didn’t occur to her at the time.

“When you see it on the news, around the world, you think, ‘That could never happen to me,’ but then it happens,” Olguin said.

Other Moore students were not aware of the tsunami when it happened but, looking back in the wake of the tornado, have a greater understanding of how people are hurt when disaster happens.

“It was really sweet of them to send the letters,” Hannah Nunn said, adding that the kindness of the students in Japan gave her support and made her feel like she had a friend there.

In her return letter, Nunn wrote, “Thank you for the letters. We will come together and recover and I hope you do, too.”

Highland East Assistant Principal Jeni Dutton said the care package sent by Chiyoda students was a wonderful lesson to everyone. The package included origami cranes of all sizes, T-shirts printed with “Operation Omoiyari” and piles of letters offering support and friendship.

“The whole thing (communicating with Chiyoda Junior High) has been energizing. It’s a wonderful lesson for the kids,” Dutton said. “Their experience isn’t isolating, it’s unifying. And that’s how we’re going to close out the year, (learning how to) turn a negative into a positive.”