Last Saturday: It is two days before Thanksgiving. I am scheduled to give another reading from Walking to Japan, and as always, that morning, I get a little nervous, unsure, ungrounded. Obviously a walk would help, but I haven’t allowed myself enough time. Why am even I doing this? I ask myself. I’m an introvert! The energy it takes to publicize and organize and travel and prepare sometimes makes me feel that giving readings is more effort than it’s worth. But then I remember that scene in the book….
Derek is walking for peace through farming country in the middle of summer, nothing around him but fields of corn and the smell of pig manure, and he is tired and sweaty and the blisters on his feet are agonizing. Why am I even doing this? he says to himself. Who even cares? And then he remembers. I care.
Later that afternoon, as I welcome guests into the event room at the public library, I start feeling more excited. Oh, people are here! But then I begin to worry. Will they like it? Will they “get” it? Do Shakespearean actors worry about their audience ‘getting” it? I suspect they give it their all but realize that not everyone clicks with Shakespeare. I close my eyes and offer a silent prayer. May I just do my best today.
I start reading. The passages I’m reciting are familiar but not rote. Every time I read them they come alive again. I feel energized, and at the same time I feel my body relax. Perhaps it’s because I am, in essence, invoking Derek in these words. I feel closer to him, his love, support, and wisdom. And, the very words he speaks in the book are always relevant to the situation I’m in at that very moment.
These days, with all the big scary stuff that’s going on in the world, I’ve been wondering if I’ve been doing enough for peace, to combat climate change, shift systemic racism and sexism, and on and on and on….. I tire myself out each day, but it’s hard to see the effects of my actions sometimes.
Walking to Japan is the story of how one man made a difference. He didn’t stop the nuclear arms race, but he connected with people, one at a time, and shared his wisdom and love. I am reminded that we can’t singlehandedly save the world. But if we all do a little each day, we ARE making a difference. We have to trust that. I have to trust that.
Back in the library, I’m reading to my audience about Derek’s first attempt to make a peace crane. “It wasn’t perfect, but my whole heart was in it. When I finally swallowed my pride and let go of my fear, I forgot to care about what others may think and enjoyed [myself].” Ahem. Yes. I have to smile. I am quite enjoying myself now. And, I feel a sweet and precious connection with my audience. This is why I do this.
After the reading, people made it clear that they were touched and inspired. On this Thanksgiving Day, I voice my gratitude for having Derek in my life, and for being given the opportunities and the courage to stand up and share his words with the world.