|I Found Tzu Chi Through My Wife|
|Visit to Hualien|
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"All the stuff in my home was imported from foreign countries. Even my wife comes from abroad," Kosaka Michio said humorously as he welcomed us into his house.
Michio is a dentist in his sixties. His wife, Rumi (Lu Ying-ying, 呂瑩瑩), is from Taiwan. They have been married for 21 years and have no children. Though a native Japanese, Michio learned to speak Chinese in order to show his love for his wife and to entertain Taiwanese guests.
Doubts about Tzu Chi
As a professional medical worker, Michio admits that he has a mania for sanitation. He takes a shower four times a day; to meet his demands for cleanliness, his wife mops the floor three times daily. Michio also pays close attention to his diet. He dislikes greasy or strongly flavored food, and so he only eats meals prepared by his wife.
After they got married, Rumi concentrated all her energy on looking after her husband. She did grocery shopping and took care of household chores. She had only three Taiwanese friends in Tokyo. Aside from an occasional chitchat with them, she had no other pastimes.
Five years ago, invited by one of those friends, Rumi went to the Tzu Chi Japan branch office to help tend the bookstore there for some volunteers who had gone back to Taiwan to participate in some Tzu Chi events. During her week there, she read many books about this Buddhist charity foundation. Moved by its altruistic philosophy, she decided to become a volunteer and serve the needy.
After she joined Tzu Chi, Rumi's uneventful and peaceful life began to change. Michio would sometimes find himself returning from work to an empty home, and his wife was often wanted on the phone after eight in the evening. He did not notice that the pocket money he gave her also ran out more quickly than before.
The round-trip train fare from their home in Sagamihara, Kanagawa, to the Tzu Chi office in Shinjuku, Tokyo, amounted to 1,000 Japanese yen (then US$4.35). That, coupled with her traveling expenses when visiting Tzu Chi care recipients, made a big hole in her savings. To make ends meet, she had to cut down on her other expenses.
Even so, she felt she had really found her niche after she became a Tzu Chi volunteer. She had always been an enthusiastic person who liked to take care of others, and becoming a volunteer gave her the opportunity to do just that. However, she did not foresee that her enthusiastic participation in the group's activities would lead to discord and tension between her and her husband.
Not long after Rumi joined Tzu Chi, she wanted to pay a visit to the Tzu Chi headquarters in Hualien, eastern Taiwan. When she told her husband about it, he refused to let her go and even threatened to divorce her if she insisted on going.
At that time, the only thing Michio knew about Tzu Chi was that it was some religious group from Taiwan. His inadequate knowledge of the organization and his dependence on his wife made him put his foot down on her visiting Hualien. He wanted her to focus more of her attention on being a good housewife. In the end, Rumi had to give in.
"The Tokyo subway was fast enough, but still I found myself constantly racing against time." Rumi recalled that when she first began participating in Tzu Chi charity activities, she often had to rush to beat her husband home so that she could clean up the house and have dinner ready for him.
One time, her husband arrived home earlier than she did. When she entered the house, she saw him looking at her gravely. She apologized for coming home late and immediately went into the kitchen to prepare dinner. Her mind was so focused on getting the dinner ready that she did not notice him going out. That night, he ate out and did not return home until late-that was his way of protesting against her failure to do her wifely duties.
Actually, Michio was not opposed to her volunteering for Tzu Chi; he just did not want her volunteer work to affect their family life. Apparently, they both needed to make compromises to work out a solution.
During our visit, Rumi pointed to the television set in their living room. Half the screen showed a Japanese program and the other half was tuned to Da Ai TV, the Tzu Chi channel. She told us, "At first, when I proposed that we subscribe to Da Ai TV, he objected. He said that it was not a matter of money; he was worried that I would get even more caught up in Tzu Chi if we subscribed to the channel."
Conscious of her husband's feelings, Rumi did not persist. Later, however, when Michio got to know the foundation better through contacts with other volunteers and even began translating Tzu Chi articles into Japanese, his attitude changed. He himself subscribed to the cable channel.
After they began watching Da Ai TV at home, Rumi's life was full of Tzu Chi. Whenever she went out, it was to participate in Tzu Chi events; when she was home, she watched Tzu Chi programs. Her eyes were glued to the TV screen even during dinnertime.
Seeing her acting like this, Michio could not help complaining: "Is this what your Master teaches you to do?"
Rumi reflected on her behavior and promptly corrected it. Her sensibilities to her husband's feelings once again won his heart. Now Michio often generously allows the whole TV screen to be occupied by Da Ai programs.