A wise gentleman once told me that anyone can look back at their time to identify moments where mere seconds and inches changed everything. Instances where just altering time or space by just a fraction would have brought us to the brink of catastrophe.
So let us start off the new year by considering the life of Tsutomu Yamaguchi.
One day Yamaguchi stood on a platform awaiting a train that whisked him to business dealings in a far city. After a pleasant Sunday with some co-workers, he strode off on a Monday morning to conduct his affairs.
Approaching the building for his first appointment that morning, the structure was wracked by a great explosion collapsing the entire building. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was just a few moments away from being inside the complex where many died.
Even with this narrow escape, he still suffered wounds. Yamaguchi first made his way to shelter then hopped the first train back to his home town.
After the rail journey and two days recuperation, Yamaguchi returned to work on Thursday. As he stood on the factory floor telling coworkers of his experience in the early part of the week, an explosive flash rocked the plant leaving scores of his coworkers seriously injured and several dozen dead. Tsutomu Yamaguchi suffered just a few additional injuries because a hulking metal press stood between him and the source of the explosion, Inches….inches.
Enduring two fiery events within three days is dramatic enough. It becomes even more notable by going back to the beginning of his journey. That hot summer day when Yamaguchi stood on that platform awaiting his train…
holding a ticket
In 1957 the Japanese government officially recognized those exposed to radiation from the bombings. Hibakusha means the explosion affected people. While over 100 have claimed to be in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the time of the atomic attacks, Yamaguchi is the only one certified by the government as a double hibakusha….a survivor of both.
Yamaguchi died in 2010. Interviewed in his later years he claimed that enduring both blasts filled him with a purpose to lead a life dedicated to humanity through “small acts” – to look for ways to be kind, honest, just, fair in all of his actions with others. Concepts found in all major religions as well as secular organizations as with the Rotary 4-way Test.
“My double radiation exposure is now an official government record. It can tell the younger generation the horrifying history of the atomic bombings even after I die,” ~Tsutomu Yamaguchi.
I suspect if we change a few seconds or inches in each of our individual stories, we could empty out our homes, our businesses, and our communities. So let us look back at our years to ask ourselves what does it mean that we have escaped catastrophe and how such fortune can help us rededicate ourselves to some core human values which can make our world a slightly better place.
Because it’s all so very fragile…by mere seconds and inches.