A few weeks ago my friend Julie shared with me the story of a very peculiar garden in Japan. It resides in the town of Otsuchi, which you may never have heard of, but chances are you heard about the earthquake and tsunami that struck it in 2011. In 30 minutes, the town lost 10% of its residents. In the wake of the disaster, people began making pilgrimage to the garden of Itaru Sasaki. In his garden, Sasaki had placed an old-fashioned phone booth with an old-fashioned rotary phone. For him, it was a way to grieve his cousin’s death, years before, it was a symbol of the connection he wanted to maintain with his loved one as he said, “Because my thoughts couldn’t be relayed over a regular phone line, I wanted them to be carried on the wind.”
In the wake of the tsunami, pilgrims are coming from all over to visit Sasaki’s “wind phone” and in their grief and loss, to write their thoughts and feelings and memories in the journal he has left for them there, and to tap into the power of memory for the strength and hope and faith to rebuild and to create a new community, a new future. In his generosity, Sasaki has found a way to help others heal. It is so simple and profound, and yet, I think it is the essence of the Good News of the resurrection. In the Easter story in Luke, the women are told to remember what Jesus had said. Easter then is, in part, a remembering that empowers a new future, even when it seems impossible. This generosity of God in resurrection, in grace, in possibility is made real when we find ways to follow that example and through our generosity, help others heal.
Rev. Stacy Emerson is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in West Hartford, CT and the Stewardship Consultant for ABCUSA. She is also the Coordinator for The Generosity Project which is about helping congregations deepen their understanding of stewardship as a call to generosity as disciples of Jesus; re-framing the stewardship conversation; and cultivating generosity in pastors, lay people, and congregations.