Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bon Voyage

On Tuesday a friend and coworker will be leaving Japan and heading back home to Chicago. We’ve known each other for about three years, and had many discussions about matters large and small, eaten sushi many times, done crossword puzzles, been to karaoke more times than I can count, and climbed Mt Fuji.

There are many things that I will remember, not the least of which were his truly memorable karaoke performances. The highlights were definitely “Beat It”, “Baby Got Back”, and “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. The stage presence, air guitar, and passion he sings with are really something else.

But these are not the things that I will remember most about him. Back in 2008, I was doing okay. My depression was under control, I had a girlfriend, work was going well, and I was enjoying life somewhat. I had just turned 30 and was relatively content.

Another coworker, however, was not enjoying life at all. She had a variety of personal and relationship problems, and was most likely suffering from a mental illness. She was a bit difficult to deal with, and most people, myself included, tended to give her the cold shoulder.

At the time, I didn’t think much of it. To the extent that I did, I basically thought of her as a basket case and wrote her off, hoping to minimize my contact with her, which I did quite effectively.

My friend from Chicago, however, was different. He tried to help, tried to listen, even offered her a place to stay when it seemed like she might lose her accommodation unexpectedly. I thought all of this was a bad idea and advised him against it. In the end, our troubled coworker wound up leaving. I’m not sure what happened to her.

It was not until later, when my own troubles multiplied, that I appreciated what he had tried to do for her. Everyone wants to be a good person, but when it comes right down to it, we tend to look out for number one. I, and the vast majority of others ignored the woman who was in trouble, not wanting to get sucked into her problems. To use the biblical parable, we “walked by on the other side”.

There was only one good Samaritan around in 2008, and it definitely wasn’t me. I’ll never forget that. And I’ll never forget the man from Chicago who did his best to help a troubled soul. Bon voyage man. I wish you all the best for the future.


  1. That is a nice story.

    Don't tear yourself up too much for not being the Samaritan, though. Have you ever seen the film "Jesus Christ: Superstar"-where Jesus is being besieged by people seeking his help, and he cries out, "There is too LITTLE OF ME!"?

    Don't forget that part.

  2. I know how difficult it is to say goodbye not only to a friend, but someone you admire and have learned lessons from. He demonstrated a kindness which is hard to find and in '08 maybe you weren't in a place where you could offer the troubled co-worker the empathy she needed. I bet that now after having known him you are a different person and have gained some of the spirit you recognized. You move and influence more people in a positive direction than you probably are aware of, D.R.

  3. It's pretty cool that even though you are losing a friend, he was able, through his actions, to leave behind some of his character in you.

    Goodbyes suck. You can always say, "well, see you on [enter social-networking sight here] and keep-in-touch," but you both know it won't last too long and eventually you'll fall out of touch. I guess that's just the way it goes.

    Looking back though, you probably remember the people who made a real impact on your life, and they probably pop into your head from time to time. You have those memories for life, and you'll take them to the grave with you. If you were to meet those same people down the road it wouldn't be the same. That's friendship.

  4. Hi guys, thanks for coming by and posting, it is always good to hear what others think about my musings.

    Michael - I see what you are saying, we all only have a certain amount that we have to give. That is the way things are. It shouldn't be that way, but it is.

    Wendy - Yes, I think in 2008 I did the best that I was capable of at the time. I think that we all do. The trouble is, the best we are capable of is often not good enough for the situation at hand.

    Taders - Yep, goodbyes suck. But they are inevitable, and the speed at which they come is increased when you live in a foreign country. Most people that we encounter we simply pass by without any lasting impact. But there are a few people who make a difference in our lives. People that we learn something from, people who by words, example, or simple presence help us to grow, and be more than we were. Those are the people who really matter in our lives.