Friday, November 17, 2006

hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go

aka: the Japanese work ethic.

The Puritans have got nothing over the Japanese! Last week some of my adult students were discussing why they hate their jobs.

Yoshiyuki s a social worker. I'm not sure why he chose this profession because he doesn't especially like working with people. He wants to do something that allows him to work alone with details: like accounting or computer programming. But he is stuck in this profession because it is nearly impossible to change careers in Japan once you start. He works seven days a week and hasn't had a day off for months. If he reports this to the Japanese labor office, he will lose his job. The job market is tough here so he continues to work. He tells us that he comes to Agape because it is the only fun thing he does all week!

Rie is a graphic designer. She is very talented, but she has a job that doesn't allow her to do anything creative. She is looking for another job, but the market is tough . . .

Yoshie teaches English at a junior high school. She is also the volleyball coach so she works on Saturdays for practice and Sundays for meets. She hasn't had a day off since the school year started in April. There are hundreds of people waiting to take her job if she quits.

Chiharu is also an English teacher at a different junior high school. Last year she worked full time, but she asked for a part-time job this year. She still works more than 40 hours per week, but has weekends off. She has no benefits or retirement plan.

Although I work for an American company, I get no national holidays off. I get two weeks vacation per year, but not when I want to take them. If I'm sick, I have to make up the classes I missed. Yesterday I was in the hospital, hooked up to IVs with a grusome stomach virus. I couldn't sit up. Last night I fought a fever with chills and sweating all night. Today I am expected to work. If I don't, I have to make up the classes another time (when?) so I will be dragging myself in there.

The Japanese people have many material blessings, but they pay a price for them. I do not know a single Japanese person who is happy with his/her job situation, doesn't feel overworked and has more than one day off per week.

If you are female, you have one escape: get married. Many married women don't work outside the home. I have met these women, too. They are bored and unfulfilled, desperately lonely and once they have children, they live vicariously through them.

We want Agape to be a place they can come to escape from all of this, but we, too, are overworked and underappreciated. This gives me a chance to identify with my students, which is good, but it's hard to find anything to give when you are drained yourself. Still, we know God and have Him to sustain us and give us hope.

I pray that Yoshiyuki, Yoshie and Rie can find an escape and that they will see God in it. I'm so glad that Agape is the bright spot in one person's week and it inspires me to be a giving person even when I don't feel like it. Now I know why Yoshiyuki is always making jokes in the class and doesn't want to be too serious. As a "missionary" to Japan, my role is to serve the Japanese people. I"m not a very good servant, never have been, but God is so creative. He has put me in a place where I can serve by listening, by identifying with them and even by making class fun. The challenge is keeping that perspective. Pray for me!