These gentlemen are the dear 爺爺(Ye-ye)s, or Grandpas, of our Early Learning Center. They are the hearts and hands behind our students’ meals Monday to Friday. Every day at approximately 11:15AM, they cheerfully wheel our carts right up to our doors, greeting our anticipation with their arrival by gentle knocks.
When the children conclude their lunch time around noon, the 爺爺 seated on the left in the photo would come into our classroom to lend a hand and clean up left over trash and silverware. Whenever he enters, our students would unfailingly turn their heads, point, and acknowledge his tall presence. As our hands are often full throughout the day, his gesture of help gave us peace. Never once have I recalled him rushing us to clean up and would even interact with the children as he waited.
From a conversation had a while ago, I found out 爺爺 had lived in Japan for 8 years prior to moving to the US many years ago. Knowing very little Japanese, in his young adulthood, he made his way through working in humble roles in restaurants, eventually made a reputation as a cook, and in the process picked up fluency in Japanese. Every once in a while I would refresh my high-school level Japanese with him whenever I get the chance.
This past Monday, I excitedly told them I had been learning a song in Japanese and asked if I could sing it for them. They asked to hear it immediately but,
“I don’t have it memorized yet,” I confessed, “but I will sing it as soon as I do!”
It was a song that had been translated into Japanese that gripped me since I first came across it over the weekend. So much so that I spent the following two days listening to it on repeat.
As I left the kitchen that day, I was reminded of a prayer I had prayed not too long ago, asking God for ways to connect with the people at the center. Never had it occurred to me that it could be by way of songs, but I quickly remembered how the Ephesians were once instructed to “speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” Perhaps this was one of those moments.
The next day, I made my routine visit to the kitchen to heat up my lunch. Immediately, as both 爺爺 saw me approaching, in the most kindred of ways, they reminded me that I had promised them a song. So across the kitchen counter, as my food spun in the microwave, I sang Seek Ye First to an audience of two, hoping it would bring the Lord even the slightest glory.
Since that afternoon, I learned that ye-ye loved singing himself. A song called 四季歌 in particular.
Since that afternoon, I pondered upon the kind of desire or sense of burden that makes people take courage to leave behind all that they once knew for something far more uncertain.
Since that afternoon, I was reminded of the joy of becoming like others in order to reach a few.
And since that afternoon, I gained a deeper understanding of how God can fill even a few moments with the richest of fare.
Seek Ye First/神の国とその義を by Kenta and YUYU