Hideaki Akaiwa was at work when a 9.0 earthquake hit Japan in March of 2011. Less than an hour later, a tsunami devastated the country. Akaiwa hurried home to find his neighborhood submerged under water – in some places up to 10 feet. Concerned for his wife’s wellbeing, he began to search for her. Rumor has it, he somehow found a wet suit and plunged into the icy cold water and dodged floating debris in his quest.
Akaiwa found his wife trapped within their home and pulled her to safety. Then he turned his attention to his mother, whom he had not heard from since the disaster. After several days of checking in with evacuation centers he decided to find her himself and began to search the neighborhood where she had last been seen. He eventually found her stranded in a home, where she had been waiting to be rescued for four days.
With spouse and mother accounted for, most people would have ended their activism, content in allowing the authorities to do the rest of the work. Akaiwa, on the other hand, felt compelled to go back out into dangerous conditions to find others in need of help. For many days after the disaster he rode out into the community on a bicycle, armed with a backpack of supplies to help anyone he could find.
How far out of your way would you go to help a stranger?
It’s almost impossible to say. But one thing is for sure, many of us would want to help, though not as many would actually step up and make a difference.
Kabbalists teach that our purpose in this lifetime is to help others by becoming a being of sharing. Most of us do not go out of our way to check in with those around us. We’ve become conditioned into inaction, into thinking of other people’s lives as none of our business. We may feel nosey, rude, or meddlesome asking others how we can help. However, Michael Berg urges that, “we must accept responsibility for ourselves, our family, our friends, our community, and our world.” So, when we see a need, it is our job to find a way to offer assistance. We cannot assume someone else will act.
Some might call Akaiwa a courageous soul. Yet, each of us is capable of courageous acts beyond what we can imagine. He was, indeed, brave but he did not act alone. A tremendous amount of Light was available to him simply because he had the desire to help. "As long as we have a true desire to help another person,” says Michael Berg, “that desire will connect us to the Creator. And the Creator will give us everything we need to provide that help.”
Take a look around you. Who in your family or community could use a little help? Perhaps, you have an elderly neighbor who lives alone? Could you offer to run his errands? Do you know a single or working mom? Could you offer to mow the lawn, pick up some groceries, or simply hang out with the kids for a while so she can tend to other things? Opportunities to help others arise everyday – with or without a natural disaster. When we get in the habit of thinking about the needs of others, we are more likely to seize each moment as an opportunity to show kindness and compassion.
Fulfilling our life’s purpose doesn’t mean only taking care of our loved ones. It means refusing to make excuses, asking yourself what you are really capable of, and then deciding that you are the one to make a difference. “You and I can save a person. You and I can save the world,” says Michael Berg. “We can do so by finding ways to awaken in ourselves a stronger and stronger desire to help others, knowing that it will be this desire alone – not our wisdom or wealth or spiritual connection – that will make the difference.”
Akaiwa is an unusual example of heroism in the face of tragedy. We do not need to risk our lives to make an impact. We need only find a way to help others. “If you see somebody in pain, it is not a coincidence,” says Michael Berg. “It is the Creator telling you that you can and need to help in some way.” When we do not seek out ways to assist others in need, we not only neglect to fulfill our true purpose in this lifetime, we do nothing to make the world a better place. When brave individuals take action they serve to inspire each of us to acts of greater sharing.