Divine Word Missionaries blog will share some of the latest mission updates from around the world. The more than 6,000 Divine Word Missionaries are serving in 84 countries with a variety of provinces/regions that are then grouped into four zones, namely, the European zone (EUROPA), the Pan-American zone (PANAM), the Asia-Pacific zone (ASPAC), and the Africa-Madagascar zone (AFRAM). The zones may work as geographical sub-zones wherever this seems suitable. Check back often for real-time stories from the missions.
Nanzan Japanese essay contest winner
Oct 12, 2017
The news lately has been like a relentless drumbeat of despair: a string of natural disasters destroying lives and property, another mass shooting, continued political divisiveness. Just a glance at the newspaper or televised news or social media can drive you to discouragement.
Yet don’t give up. Turn past the first page, scroll beyond the doom-laden headlines or try another website (you’ve found a good one right here!) and you will find encouraging news in the most unlikely places—such as the results of a high school essay contest.
This July students at Nanzan International Junior and Senior High School in Nagoya, Japan, participated in an essay contest (the school is one of many affiliated with Nanzan University, one of Divine Word Missionaries’ major educational centers in Asia). The winning entry, “What the Smile Taught,” was written by third-year student Mirai Saito.
Mirai wrote about discovering her own capacity for empathy after volunteering to work with kindergarten students. Beginning to think the task was too much for her, Mirai was surprised to feel her doubts melt away at the end of the session when the children looked at her and smiled. She had not been paid, she had not been praised, but she felt satisfied. How could that be?
She found her answer several months later when she was an exchange student in England staying with a couple who had adopted an 8-year-old girl named Shennia. Mirai was struck by the fact that gentle Shennia was constantly smiling, especially after she learned Shennia’s history. The girl’s birth mother was a drug dealer who often abandoned her young daughter, locking her in a room without food for days. Shennia’s life had been saved a year earlier when Mirai’s host family took her in.
Now in a loving household, Shennia was all smiles when she declared, “My parents are the best in the world!” When Mirai saw how Shennia’s adoptive parents reacted to her smile, she understood how she felt that day when the kindergarten students smiled at her. “Why is it possible to be satisfied with no compensation for salary or praise?” Mirai wrote. “The answer is because children can feel happy just by smiling.”
In a way, Mirai had come to understand Jesus’ words: “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” (Mark 10:14-15).
So if all the recent news is leaving you depressed, remember the Church assures us that hope persists. Around the world millions of young people such as Mirai are learning to love their neighbors as themselves. At the end of her essay, Mirai writes that even though she doesn’t have the means to save a child from hardship, she resolves to do what she can, no matter how small, to bring a smile to a person’s face.
Mirai’s resolution is one we all should adopt. Though it may seem we live in discouraging times, each of us has the ability to spread encouragement, one smile at a time.