The Following is the most recent update from JoAnn and Larry Sims, volunteer directors at the World Friendship Center in Hiroshima, Japan.
The family made reservations to stay at World Friendship Center (WFC) in Hiroshima months ago. They came from Adelaide, Australia. The couple was brave by my standards traveling with a little girl barely two years old. The little girl had strawberry blonde hair and dancing blue eyes. The mother was a Flamenco dancer and the father was an opera singer.
They arrived during one of our English conversation classes so we were surprised when our office manager rushed to us as we entered the office. “ Our guest just arrived and he is very sick. What shall we do?” I asked for more details and was told they had moved their luggage to the room and were resting.
I knocked on the door and the father rose from his futon looking very pale and drawn. I asked him how he felt and what had happened. Their stay in Kyoto the past two days had turned out to be two days with some sort of stomach flu, serious cramps and extreme weakness. The mother had recovered in one day but the father seemed to be worse, unable to stand straight and was barely able to walk to their room. I asked him if he wanted to go to the hospital and that it was just across the river, about a five-minute walk. Could he make it? He said he thought he was better, that laying down had helped him feel stronger. Are you sure, I asked? He was certain. I then looked straight at the little girl’s mother and asked, what do you think? She said he should go to the hospital because this was day 3 and he wasn’t any better.
Coming downstairs I saw two WFC board members working on the thank you notes for a recent Peace concert our organization had sponsored. One member was an excellent translator and had taken Larry & I to the hospital/doctor when we first arrived in Japan. The other was the choir director of the Peace concert who had driven to WFC that day to sign thank you notes. I explained the situation. The translator immediately said she would go with him to translate. The choir director said she would drive them to the hospital.
I returned to the guests explaining that everything was arranged and that he should go now. If it turned out he was fine that would be great, if not, he would get good care. He put his shoes on at the door and carried his insurance card with him. They left helping him to the car. An hour passed. At WFC we were wondering about him when the translator called saying that the first hospital did not have an internist available and sent him to another hospital. The second hospital diagnosed him as having a stomach virus causing gastritis and being dehydrated. They gave him a saline solution IV that would take another 40 minutes to finish and then medicine for pain and antibiotics. The doctor also said the situation was not serious. He was to drink liquids and rest. I reported the message to his wife and she was much relieved as we all were.
By this time the strawberry blonde two year old was quite tired of waiting for Daddy to return so I walked them to a near-by park with playground equipment and stone animal statues. The little girl rode in her stroller. The mother assured me they would be fine and would play at the park, do a little exploring, and then return to WFC and by that time their family would be reunited. I said good-bye and waved as I walked back to WFC.
The father returned from the hospital looking much better. He had color in his face and could stand without holding on to something. We offered him two fresh water bottles that he accepted and then returned to his room to rest.
About four hours later I began to wonder about the mother and little girl. At first I thought she was staying away so that the Dad could get lots of rest as the doctor ordered. But four hours seemed like a long time to me and it was now quite dark outside. The phone rang. The person on the other end could only speak Japanese so I asked him to call tomorrow when the office staff returned. This is our standard response when the person doesn’t speak English.
Within another 30 minutes, the mother and child arrived. It had been the taxi driver who had called for directions to WFC. They had driven around until the mother recognized the playground. She then directed the taxi driver to WFC. It turns out she became quite lost, turning left instead of right at a street corner and had explored a different area of Hiroshima quite far from WFC. She had finally called a taxi to take them back.
So by 9pm that evening the family was reunited. The father got lots of rest. The mother and daughter had quite an adventure themselves. Everyone was glad to see one another including Larry & I. We were also glad that the Dad was feeling and looking so much better.
Helping a stranger in need, a sick stranger, and a mother and child turned out to be a live Good Samaritan Story. The family stayed at WFC for three days and by the third day they were all feeling like WFC was home. We enjoyed playing with the little girl with strawberry blonde hair and loved learning about the mother’s dance school and performances. When they left we had tears in our eyes especially when they brought back bouquets of flowers for WFC, the translator and choir director. We were all so glad to be able to help them and help transform what might have been a terrible nightmare into a loving and compassionate memory.