The earthquake and tsunami in Japan cannot fail to impact us if we have any humanity.
We’ve seen a plethora of images of the devastation in Japan. Some of them are heart-rending and some of them are incomprehensible in their awesomeness and leave no emotional impact because we just overload.
We watch people shiver as they queue for food and we feel cold and hungry. We watch dramatic frantic rooftop rescues (as we did with our own floods) and feel elated. We see the ecstatic faces of drenched and filthy rescuers as they find another survivor and laugh with them. We see an abandoned pet dog place his paw on another prone dog and weep because it’s a small caring gesture in a sea of devastation and we wish we could be there to do the same. Sixteen thousand lost and missing is too enormous, too weighty and it short-circuits our hearts.
Most of us are feeling a bit stretched now on the donating front, after the last three months of disasters in our region alone. But we can still send RUOK messages to all those who may be in any way affected. An extra email costs us nothing but a little time, does not move us physically out of our comfort zone and may give us an emotional release for some of the burden of caring.
I emailed an abstract to an organizer of a scientific meeting in Japan, whom I have never personally met, with a short note saying I was still planning on attending the meeting in October and asking if he and his family were okay. He replied, in part, “Thank you for sending your abstract and caring for our country. As you know, we had a terrible disaster that we’ve never experienced. However, I believe our country will be able to recover from the tragedy.”
I shall now email every other Japanese researcher I have met whose address I have and ask RUOK. It’s the very least we can do.
Update 1 (19 May): Two more replies from Japan have arrived, both from areas in the south unaffected directly by recent events. So far, everyone is fine.
Update 2 (20 May): Yet another two replies arrived yesterday, one form the very north and one from the very south; everyone is healthy, not in danger and not personally impacted (except by some power shortages).