The Stories of Becoming Upright Citizens

By: Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP
Salesian Cooperator

The Salesians chose becoming “upright citizens” as part of our strenna for year 2020. I have been scratching my head to find stories that I can elicit the interests of my grandchildren and to illustrate the theme of the strenna. After many contemplated moments, I decided to search through my life experience and share with you my experience of the strenna. Normally I would have to dig up reference articles to prove my points; not this time. I think my own life experience will tell the stories.

If I were to pick a nation that illustrates the morally upright character as a nation, I would definitely vote for Japan – one of my favorite travel destinations. In 1978, my first visit to Tokyo was an eye opening of the kind, considerate people of Japan. A good example of this cultural awakening moment happened when I decided to take the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto. We were two hours arriving at the train station. There were plenty of restaurants and shopping in the surrounding area. So we thought it would be great to find a locker and get rid of the burden of luggage. To our amazement, there were no lockers at the train stations. I thought to myself: “Such a big metropolitan city, and there is no locker!” we proceeded to ask the locals where they stored their luggage before departure. The answer is: “Oh, we just leave our luggage along the railway entrance areas.” “Are you kidding me? Is this safe?” Absolutely! This incredible experience left me with such a deep appreciation for how safe the country was, how honest the citizens were. Truly this was my first lesson of the definition of morally upright citizens as a nation.

We have seen during their tsunami or earthquake disasters, this nation stood calm; they would line up for water without complaints. They dashed to help their neighbors in need. Mindful of the environment impact on health and maintenance of a clean country, they even go to the extremes of picking trash home.  I almost want to say: “Only in Japan!”  I went back in 2018 attending a conference in Chiba, a city south of Tokyo. The streets were still very clean. However, I did notice signs (in English), that for littering there will be a heavy fine. I asked the locals why these signs were posted; they said these were for the tourists!

Being a morally upright citizen knows no boundary. I also witnessed the same with my neighbor Lupe, a Hispanic elderly woman in her eighties. During one of my morning walks, I bumped into Lupe. I do not know her well; I only know she lives in the neighborhood. However, through her gentle kindness, I feel like I know her so much more. She walked the dog and let him “do his thing” on the neighbor’s lawn when he was ready. Instead of littering his neighbor’s lawn like most of the people would do, Lupe would catch the moment and tucked a pile of newspaper under his legs, skillfully protected the neighbor’s property from the poop. Lupe did come prepared. She has her gloves, sanitizing spreads and plastic bags to carry the poop home.

I often wonder if there is a correlation between being a morally upright citizen and longevity. I know the Japanese definitely prove this point. Their longevity is among the best record in the world. And my neighbor Lupe is in her eighties.

One would ask why we, as Coordinators of the Care Ministry, would write on the topic of “upright citizens” this week. We want to share our own stories especially during this time of confusion and chaos in the United States. We hope our stories help us focus on doing the right thing as a nation; to be kind, considerate, and caring for our neighbors. Together we would strive to be moral citizens and perhaps live a happy, long life?

Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: find your own story on becoming an upright citizen.

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