This is a wonderful Japanese word. A bit difficult to translate, but one my dear friend Henry Thoreau described perfectly—without even knowing it. It’s the word that best describes how full my heart became, and how it could become full, this past Tuesday, when I visited a high school in Aichi Prefecture, to give a little talk on cross-cultural understanding.
It had to be a little talk . . . because I only had a little to say.
The high school was in Toyota City, which meant for me (he who does what he can to avoid motor vehicles whenever possible) two plus hours on three different trains, one way. At least I didn’t have to take a bus from my house. I could ride my bicycle to the train station. And from the third train station I could walk the mile or so to the high school.
I think it’s often a good idea—if you have the time—to give yourself a little leeway.
Leeway, that’s pretty much what yoyu means. It is most often used to talk about time, but it can be used to talk about a lot of things, I think.
Work a whole day in a factory so that you can afford a train ticket? Or take the day off and walk through the woods—a day’s pay unnecessary— to get to where you’re going? Which sounds better to you?
Here’s what Henry had to say about that.
One says to me, “I wonder that you do not lay up money; you love to travel; you might take the cars and go to Fitchburg today and see the country.” But I am wiser than that. I have learned that the swiftest traveller is he that goes afoot. I say to my friend, Suppose we try who will get there first. The distance is thirty miles; the fare ninety cents. That is almost a day’s wages. I remember when wages were sixty cents a day for laborers on this very road. Well, I start now on foot, and get there before night; I have travelled at that rate by the week together. You will in the meanwhile have earned your fare, and arrive there some time tomorrow, or possibly this evening, if you are lucky enough to get a job in season. Instead of going to Fitchburg, you will be working here the greater part of the day. And so, if the railroad reached round the world, I think that I should keep ahead of you.
It was a great bicycle ride to the train station. The sky was blue and the persimmons, some of them, were turning shiny orange. Just a hint of translucence in the skins.
All along the way, orange cosmos were out sunbathing.
And then the trains. Well, they weren’t so bad. Nice views all the way, and I had a good book with me.
But what a pleasant surprise it was, to step out from Toyota City Station, and see what a lovely blue sky the students had prepared for me. There was a lovely river to cross, too. From the highest point on the bridge was a spectacular panoramic view of the distant mountains ringing the plain.
When I finally got to the high school, I was stunned.
The students had planted three enormous fields (each the size of a football pitch) with cosmos . . . all for me.
I’d brought my lunch, so I walked out into one of the fields, plopped myself down, and had a leisurely lunch. I filled my lungs with their love.
They, the flowers. They, the students.
I was feeling so good when I finally walked into the classroom, I just up and changed around my whole talk. What a lovely environment they had to study in! How happy I was they invited me to share it with them! A few students may have thought I was crazy, but I think what I said made a lot of them very happy.
Well, we talked a bit about the risks of becoming an “international” sojourner–of growing beyond a home that you may love very much, a home that may seem quite different to you when you return.
Just for fun, we discussed how a fish, who’d never left his pond, might draw a cow—a cow that his old buddy, a frog, has done a mediocre job describing. Just for fun, we chose a boy to pretend he was that fish. Here’s what the boy drew.
That pink thing is the milk sac. Beautiful.
Somehow I started talking about how my mother felt about her son living on the other side of the world. It was a good talk. I think it was, anyway. For me. And for them, too. Sometimes that happens.
Sometimes, not always, but more than not, what you need (what I need, anyway) to have things go well, is to feel a little kindness—and to have a little yoyu.