It was a festive New Year’s celebration at the home of our close friends. For generations, their family celebrated the Japanese tradition of pounding mochi on New Year’s day. It was a beautiful connection to my own cultural heritage and a meaningful bond for their multigenerational family that now overflowed their home.
As I made my way through dozens of his family members, I was introduced to his aunt who looked familiar. “Paul, this is my Auntie Junko!” I extended my hand in greeting and she firmly grasped it, flashing a smile that enlivened her bright eyes.
“You may not remember me, but we met many years ago in my shop. I put together your wedding cranes!”
The wedding cranes!
An honored Japanese wedding tradition is to fold a thousand and one paper origami cranes and display them at the reception. While most couples have displayed them on tree branches or an improvised stand, a modern twist utilizes skilled artisans who take the cranes and arrange them into elaborate and clever designs and expertly frame them. Our cranes were folded with gold and silver foiled paper and were arranged as two large cranes flying together, symbolizing our new life together.
“Auntie Junko!” I exclaimed! “I do remember you! It has been nearly twenty years! Your cranes are still hanging over the mantle of our fireplace. It is the centerpiece of our family room and everyone loves it!”
Auntie Junko beamed. “I remember your cranes! It was one of my favorite designs! A husband and wife need to always speak kindly to each other and share everything they do…just like the cranes.” She smiled as she glanced in the direction of my wife. “Please keep doing this!” Her voice softened and she gently held my hand. “I want to share something with you. My husband never forgot what you told him. Do you remember?”
I was embarrassed. I remembered her husband who was in the shop with her but I could not recall the exact details of the conversation. I fumbled for an answer and Auntie Junko sensed my discomfort.
“My husband had bad arthritis. You told him to warm up every morning for about thirty minutes, doing slow and easy stretching exercises until he felt comfortable.”
“Yes…” I was recalling the conversation. “He was a retired sensei at the Karate dojo. I encouraged him to use some of his kata (exercises) forms as a way to warm up.”
She nodded. “He did it every morning for over 10 years until he passed away! He never forgot what you told him.”
I hugged Auntie Junko and thanked her for sharing the story. Nearly twenty years ago, our lives briefly crossed and now, through a mutual friend, we were reunited. It was a vivid reminder to me how the words I speak to others can have a profound impact, more than I could have possibly realized at the time they were uttered.
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Colossians 4:6 (ESV)
Someday, I will stand before my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In a supernatural presentation, everything I have ever said to anyone will be replayed to me. The embarrassing and hurtful moments when I have callously and flippantly said something in jest will be laid bare before God. These far outweigh the encouraging words that I have spoken to others. Through beautiful reminders like our wedding cranes, I must always strive to be sensitive to the guiding of the Holy Spirit and let my speech be uplifting rather than denigrating. I need to continue to speak to my wife kindly, caring for her as my own body.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.