The Japanese earthquake and tsunami of March 2011 is one of the greatest tragedies that I have ever seen. However, as with any tragedy, there are some lessons to be learned. If those lessons aren’t learnt, then a tragedy is just senseless destruction and pain. These are, in my opinion, the lessons that we can learn from this tragedy.
1.- Be happy and enjoy life. Life is so much more fragile than we think and we sometimes waste perfectly good moments over petty details. Some people in Japan went to work on that day, never imagining that when they came back, their families, houses, and even their whole towns would be gone. And while the earthquake is a epic-proportioned tragic, it doesn’t take much to change a life forever, a nervous thief with a gun, a drunk driver, a new virus. So, don’t bitch about how the valet parking got a dent in your car.
2.- Material things are not vital. Yes, it’s nice to buy things and enjoy them. There’s nothing wrong with that. But also take into consideration that they are just that: material things that can be replaced. It’s your life, your health, your feelings, your intelligence, your maturity, your spirituality that’s important.
3.- Are you prepared for when something happens to you or your family? While the tragedy was immense, Japan’s high level of preparedness saved them from a much bigger catastrophe. The Japanese prepared for an earthquake because they know that they live in an area where earthquakes are common. What are the most common dangers in your area? Crime? Poverty? Pollution? Flooding? Do you have a plan for you and your family on what to do in case of an emergency?
4.- Attitude is everything. The Japanese understand that the convenience of one is the inconvenience of everyone. Even during a tragedy of this magnitude, the people are calm and restrained. There are no panic attacks. There aren’t thieves looting from the abandoned houses and properties. There aren’t groups of people fighting over the distribution of food and water. Workers are unselfishly helping and doing their jobs and people are patiently making lines that are several blocks long until it’s their turn to get some food. I’m especially amazed by the people who are in the power plants, risking their lives to prevent meltdowns, and by the workers in the supermarket who in the middle of the earthquake stood there and tried to protect the products from falling and breaking.
5.- We need to reduce or dependency on dangerous and polluting energy sources. As I write this, there are reports of danger of a nuclear meltdown. Radioactivity, as many other types of pollution, doesn’t respect frontiers. However, reducing our dependency on these energy sources will require a lot of sacrifice from us. It’s not as simple as saying “let’s just close nuclear plants.”
6.- We are all humans. Deep down, we’re all the same. The people of Japan, despite being more advanced than other countries, are still grieving and suffering in the same way the people of Haiti suffered and grieved last year when they were hit by an earthquake.
Wherever you are, I’m sure there’s a way you can contribute to the relief effort. Please make a small sacrifice and donate whatever you can. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small quantity, it will help someone because, despite the numbers of victims that you see on TV, lives come in only one size: individual.