Fine Work (Japan)
“An Unexpected Letter in Braille”
Kenji Fujii (79, Retired minister) Fukuoka city
One day in December near the end of 2006, a letter arrived at my home.
When I picked it up, the envelope had a stamp and was sealed, but I knew right away it was written in Braille because it had a certain thickness and I could feel the dots from the outside. In the corner of the envelope I found Braille letters that I knew must have been written without a Braille typewriter; I could tell from their irregularity. It was a girl’s name… “It couldn’t be!,” I thought. I was immediately surprised and then felt warm inside. I opened the letter in a hurry.
Until March of this year, I was the director of a kindergarten and was commuting from Fukuoka-city to a rural town nearby. It was about an hour and a half each way, and together with my guide dog I had commuted for more than 10 years either by train or on the kindergarten bus. Incidentally, my current partner is a black Labrador Retriever named “Flory,” a 9-year-old female and my 4th partner to date. It has been 39 years since I got my first guide dog in Kyushu. I am deeply grateful for all of them. They guided me faithfully without going off the track, though my story seems to be going a little off track right now…
Back to the subject at hand: About 10 days before the letter arrived, I was on a train that left earlier than the one I usually took because there was a special event at the kindergarten that day. Although the train was congested with the rush-hour crowd, I managed to find a seat thanks to Flory’s excellent guidance. However, soon after I heard an announcement saying, “Please note that the last three cars of this train will be detached before reaching the final destination”.
This was really troubling. If I had been on my usual train, I would have known where I was. But each train has a different number of cars so there is no way of knowing which car I’m on even if I got on from the same spot on the platform every time. And no matter how smart Flory is, she cannot tell me the number of the car I’m on.
So I asked the person sitting in the same booth and she very kindly told me that our car would not be detached. She was a senior going to a local high school. I later learned that she had also left her house much earlier on that day due to exams. We talked about how we would not have met if we had each had taken our usual trains. This may sound a bit dramatic, but I felt like it was a fateful encounter.
I deeply thanked her and gave her my business card when we said good-bye, and that is how she later got in touch with me.
Our encounter on the train was short, but it had a large impact on her as well. She felt strongly about sending me a letter, but I would not be able to read regular writing by myself and she did not know Braille. After she spent a while trying to sort this out, she found a chart of Braille letters. She didn’t have a Braille typewriter, but came up with a great idea...
There is a toy pen called a “foaming pen” which uses a special ink that foams up on paper. Without a frame, her letter ended up being as long as three sheets of letter paper, but it was masterpiece of hard work. I read her sincere, wholehearted words and I was moved so much that tears almost came to my eyes.
The size and position of the dots were irregular, but as I moved my fingers slowly up and down and right and left, I was surprised to find that her Braille was perfect.
The girl, Miss M.F., went to a vocational school after high school to become a beauty therapist. She has a strong sense of responsibility, works on everything seriously and earnestly, is well-organized and has a wonderful character. I have no doubt that she will continue to be kind and well loved no matter where life may lead her. People also say she is very beautiful. How unfortunate I am for not being able to see her.
She told me she wanted to find a part-time job after entering the vocational school, so I recommended her to two employers I knew. I wanted to repay her for the kindness she showed me that day in the train. She got a job at both places right away, and both she and her employers were very happy with the results.
Incidentally, I’m have been a Christian minister for the last 50 years, and secretly I hope that one day when she gets married, I can hold her wedding ceremony at my church and celebrate with the young couple.
When think about that, I feel that I have a good reason to take care of myself and stay healthy so I can be there to see that momentous occasion.