“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
There are many types of communities, and we all belong to one or more. Some we are born into, some we choose to join. Some we build. A community can be as large as a nation, or as small and intimate as a family unit. If we are lucky, we belong to numerous communities, each fulfilling a different need in ourselves. The key word here is “belong.” It is the need to belong to something beyond ourselves that brings us together in groups, big or small, with a common history or purpose.
I still remember the moment I became part of the Nikkei Community. It was in the late seventies, and at Takeo Yamashiro’s invitation I played my guitar and sang my songs solo one night at the Tonari Gumi coffeehouse on Cordova Street. By the end of the evening I was part of a band and a community and I have never looked back. It was a defining moment in my life and virtually everything that followed can be traced back to that one evening.
The subject of this month’s cover story, Joji Kumagai, also found his way into the Vancouver Nikkei community through Tonari Gumi. In his case, he taught ESL classes there before eventually taking on the job of Executive Director for a number of years. As is often the case, that experience led to other related opportunities and he is now working for the Strathcona Business Improvement Association in the historic home of the west coast Japanese Canadian community. He also met his wife through TG and they now have a young daughter.
Joji’s story resonates with me and I think it will with many others—it’s a story of finding strength in community and one’s roots, of following paths as they open up, of taking advantage of opportunities as they arise.
As we head into 2011, I’d like to wish all of our readers, advertisers and contributors a Happy New Year and a wonderful year of the rabbit. I’d also like to thank those people who have sent in submissions over the past year. I have not had space to print them all yet, but have certainly not forgotten them. If you have a story idea, or even a story, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.