Friday, April 13, 2007

television tears

It would seem I have a 'tear quota' to fulfill. If I fail to meet the quota those tears sneak out of their own accord. Suddenly insignificant, trivial events set off an outpouring of sadness that trails down my face.

Ugly Betty, my usual tear-jerking fare, has been absent for the last fortnight and in that time the tension of unmet quotas has risen steadily.

I, however, have been oblivious to this whole dynamic. I didn't know there was a quota! I had no idea that if life was happy and the tears didn't flow they'd find an out some other way! I thought I cried when I was sad or happy, or perhaps when I joined with another person in their sadness or happiness. But random crying over minimal triggers? Not me! (crying every night as a teenager doesn't qualify)

So it was something of a shock when I found myself crying over yet another television program.
Where do these tears come from?!

At least this was more worthy than Ugly Betty - the story of Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who saved the lives of thousands of Jews in Lithuania in WWII. I'd never heard of Sugihara before, but as the documentary unfolded I was deeply moved by the way he lived.

There were over 200,000 Jews in Lithuania in 1940, all desperate to escape imminent death at the hands of Hitler. Despite his government's orders to the contrary, Sugihara wrote several thousand visas for the Jews, allowing them to escape across Russia and into Japan. When he and his family returned home, Sugihara was sacked and he spent the rest of his life eking out a difficult existence. Shortly before his death he was asked why he wrote all those visas. He seemed surprised at the question, simply stating "I did it because it was the right thing to do."

Then the floodgates opened and I wept.

I am often struck by the absolute self-centredness of our society. The speed limit is broken with complete disregard for the potential damage it can wreak. Litter is thrown to the ground. Fossil fuel is burned. Developing world workers are exploited. People are murdered in fits of rage. School windows are smashed. Abuse is hurled. Money stolen. If it feels good do it and don't think about who you might hurt... We seem hell-bent on pleasure seeking, even if it means destroying one another to do so.

Sugihara stands out in stark contrast to this. He hoped for diplomatic promotion; he wanted a good life for his family; he knew that writing those visas could signal the end of all his dreams. Yet he still did it. With each signature he banged another nail into the coffin of his career. But he knew it was right. He had to do it because he could do nothing else but help. Sugihara stood by his convictions and paid a great personal price.

Maybe I don't have a tear quota! Maybe I just have a soft heart.

Whichever it is, I have been touched by the life of Chiune Sugihara.

May I also be someone who does what is right because it is right.

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At 3:37 am, April 14, 2007, Blogger Deanna said...

I'm in tears with you after reading Sugihara's quote. I hope I can find that program here.

While I haven't watched Ugly Betty, I've been rewatching our dvds of the Firely series (did you see it?). In the episode, "Safe," a grown brother faces the sister he's given up everything to help. She (River) says to her brother (Simon), "I know you left everything to find me, and you found me broken." Simon replies, "Everything I care about is here."

I was a gooey puddle on the floor.

Hoorah and sniffle for those who must do the right thing.

At 5:06 am, April 14, 2007, Blogger Cherie said...

What a moving story, Cecily. Choked me up. It's good to ponder such things, and often. As you suggest, the world can be so ugly and indifferent that to find a soft hearted person moves some of us mightily.

I think you have a soft heart...AND a lot of tears. Both good things, and nothing to be ashamed of.

At 6:52 am, April 14, 2007, Blogger Sandy's Notes said...

The movie will be here on May 5th; looking forward to watching it! Your tears a good sign Cecily. When you feel nothing, then it's time to worry.


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