Learning from Japan-- When Is It Time to Ask for Help?

Around this first anniversary of the devastating triad of natural and man-made tragedies in Japan, I’d like to share my blog post of about a year ago with a great story from a small Japanese town in the affected area north of Tokyo.  The messages from its mayor are universal, timeless, and vital to our evolution as beings on this planet.

Almost a year ago, there was a very moving UTube video [“SOS from Minamisoma mayor”] of the mayor of Minamisoma-- a small town near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors, devastated by the March earthquake, tsunami, and threat of nuclear meltdown-- desperately but with dignity asking for help for his town’s citizens who still remained.  These people (only a third of the original population, those who weren’t killed, missing, or evacuated) were trying to support each other under the dedicated leadership of their mayor, Mr. Sakurai.  However, they couldn’t get help from outside the town, as delivery trucks with food and gas refused to come within 18 miles of the city because of potential radiation hazard.  People were starving, and without heat or even gas to leave the town.

Feeling unheard and unsupported by the Japanese government, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, and the local media, Mr. Sakurai agreed to talk in a video for UTube.  Later, Mr. Sakurai said he “credited the large-scale response to his video with helping those who remained in the stricken city to carry on.  ‘Suddenly, the world was extending its hand to us . . . We’ve learned that we are not alone.’”  Food and other relief supplies were then being delivered to the town by non-profit agencies, helping its people to begin to live their lives again.

People making career changes also need to consider, ”When is it time to ask for help?”  How do you know when you cannot do what you need to do by yourself?  How stuck or desperate do you have to feel before you reach out for the help you need?

Career and life coaches in the United States often work with people who struggle with our national ethos that taking care of all your problems yourself is the only acceptable route.  When they finally start working with a coach, they realize that finding the right kind of help for dealing with problems and making changes is a tremendous relief. They receive affirmation for their dreams and plans, plus appropriate support for moving forward into new areas of their lives. They also learn that asking for help before getting completely burnt out or stuck makes their lives much easier.

Mayor Sakurai was forced to give his speech on the video at “the darkest moment in the disaster.”  He and his townspeople reached out to the world-- and people all over responded.  As Mayor Sakurai and his town discovered, “We’ve learned that we are not alone.”  The lesson is, none of us need to be alone in our search for support in reaching our goals.

In fact, asking for help is really a mutually enriching experience.  When you ask for help, you allow others who help you live fulfilled by giving them the opportunity to share something they have of value with you.  At the end of his speech, Mayor Sakurai concludes, “Helping each other is what makes us human beings.”