But somewhere along the way it got a little cloying and annoying. I think the underlying issue for me is the construct of helper and help. Being a helper means you have the power to do something for another who, in this situation anyway, has less power. That doesn't mean we shouldn't help others, but we should understand our motives and not get carried away with what we've done. I posted long ago about charity and included some Jewish thought on charity that is relevant here, though not sufficient, I'm sure, for some to get my point about the power relationship in giving. Part of the issue is that in Japan there is a very strong culture of gift giving and thanking. So the degree of thanks became a bit embarrassing.
After all, these people where doing what they enjoy doing - beach combing. They found some stuff an said, wow, wouldn't it be interesting if we could find the owners? So far so good. But then they get on planes and fly to Japan and become the recipients of this overwhelming level of thank you. I get all this. It's my nature to try to find the person who lost something, to get something back to a rightful owner. But I also know that it's what I enjoy doing and I'm not making any big sacrifice to help out. I'm not interrupting my life or giving away money that I can't afford to give. I'm just doing what I enjoy doing and if that makes someone else happy, then that's a bonus.
|Kevin and kids answer questions after Lost and Found|
So I was sitting there watching the film end and thinking about whether I'm being overly picky and critical. But my gut was telling me this was a bit over the top.
And then the movie ended and one of the finders, who's from Anchorage, and his kids went to the front to answer questions. Two things he said stood out:
- Some people weren't interested in getting stuff back or even talking to us. Wow, that certainly wasn't in the story. We were told about a signed volley ball whose owner hadn't been found, but not about people who weren't interested, who didn't want to be 'helped.'
- That he'd been contacted by the film makers and they were interested in his story and that they paid for his trip to Japan.
OK. That made more sense, because the returning of the found items and the meetings between the losers and the finders were all filmed. So maybe that was my problem. This was the story line for a film and the filmmakers found the folks to fit their story line. Japan experiences disaster. Debris crosses Pacific. People find the debris and track down and return the debris. What a wonderful heartwarming story. But at least some of these folks wouldn't have gone to Japan on their own if they hadn't been encouraged and financed by the film makers. And the film never mentioned the people who didn't want their stuff back and didn't want to meet or even talk to the people who found it. Including that would have made this a much richer film. But instead we got an, apparently, artificially sweetened feel good story.
It makes Ruth Ozeki's novel, A Tale For The Time Being, all the more remarkable with its richness and darkness. This story, completed just before the tsunami hit, tells the story about a Japanese-Canadian who finds a teenage Japanese girl's diary on a beach in British Columbia. She too wants to find the owner and return the diary. But the story doesn't have the Disneyesque happily after after quality of Lost and Found. The diary tells us very dark tales of life as a teenager in Japan.
That said, I have no criticism for any of the beach combers. My sense was that they were each doing their thing and genuinely wanted to be helpful and that they all learned a lot and grew from these experiences. What I saw in the film makes me think the people returning stuff to Japan were themselves a bit overwhelmed by their reception. And it's up to the filmmakers to decide how to tell their story. It's just that they told a story that didn't sit all that well with me. Their story put happy makeup onto a situation that wasn't nearly so happy.