Patrick and Jacqueline Bencke serve at Kyushu Lutheran College, a college of the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kumamoto, Japan. Patrick teaches English and Jacqueline works in the music program. In their recent newsletter, they offer some thoughts on respect for the elderly. To support the Benckes or another of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.
September is the month when Japan observes Respect for the Aged Day. Elderly people are respected for their wisdom and experience, and this holiday (yes, it’s a national holiday, so there’s no mail service) is usually celebrated on a small scale within the family, with kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids coming together to honor the more mature members of their families. Often, the traditional Japanese foods are served for meals instead of relying on the more recent additions of fast foods and more highly processed foods.
At our church’s observance this year all the members of the congregation who are 75 or older were recognized and given a small gift at the end of the service. Interestingly, I was shocked to learn that some of the women who were honored were 75 or older – not just because they have a good hair-coloring jobs but because they are so healthy and active!
One thing I appreciate about Japan is how every day is sort of Respect for the Aged Day. This is evidenced by the polite language used to address older people and how so often students or young adults will give up their seats on the bus for folks who are a little older. It is heartening to see this, despite the ever changing society that seems to be drifting from its traditional values. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have such a holiday in the U.S.?
Patrick and Jacqueline Bencke