Well, my Mom says that when I was a little girl I had a pair of shoes that I just LOVED and refused to stop wearing them even when they were too little. Because of this, my feet are deformed! HA! Well, what she calls deformed is really just an accelerated case of bunions. Most people have problems with this when they are like in their 60's and 70's. I get the joy of beginning to deal with it in my early 30's. So I went to the Doc today to see if anything can be done to keep it from getting worse. My year of working out dilligently has really bothered especially my left foot, and I just wanted to get ahead of it before it gets out of hand. Well the doctor had no special words of wisdom for me and basically it was a waste of my time and money. But while I was sitting in the waiting area, I witnessed something very interesting about lonliness in this country.
It is very common for the more elderly population to visit a doctors office almost daily in the morning, so they can talk and gossip with their friends in the waiting room. It never ceases to amaze me that they gather and carry on, updating one another on their various ailments, their family members, current politics and so forth. They greet one another with a nan-shalant, "hey there" instead of "fancy meeting you here!" which makes it obvious to us less regular visitors that it is normal for them to meet up like this. Japanese national insurance is very good and medical attention in Japan is relatively inexpensive. Plus doctors humor these folks by prescribing treatments that require them to come to the hospital or clinic often. Things that we would normally be allowed to do ourself at home in the states, Japanese don't or can't do at home, they must go to the doctor. This creates a little culture of people who have made friends at the doctors office and they gather daily or several times a week to hang out. They are pretty lonely I guess.
I had an early morning appointment today so I got to see this daily ritual. A group of ladies were gathered with their little push carts, talking away. I was a little annoyed because I was trying to hear a sermon on my mp3 player through just one ear phone so I could hear when they called my name with the other ear. This proved to be pretty impossible with all that chatter.
The first lady to arrive though, really got my attention. She comes marching in with her little push cart. These little carts are multi-functional, acting as walking support, a miniature wheel barrel for holding their belongings and purchases, and a small seat when needed. She had sticking out of the top of her seat area a large doll, and the doll was talking! This is another recent trend among older aged women in Japan, these talking dolls as companions. They are programmed to respond appropriately to movement, air temperature, and even sometimes what you say. Her doll was one of the largest I'd ever seen and he/she was just a talking away. But that wasn't the most interesting part. What was so eye catching is that she was shamlessly, in public, talking back. She sat down on the waiting bench and turned her little companion around to face her and began talking with her. She'd nuzzle and kiss her, straighten her clothes, brush the dolls "hair" out of her face and so forth. She carried on with this doll until her buddies showed up, much in the same way I would with Hana. It was captivating. She really addored this doll.
What depth of loneliness she must know to need a companion so badly. I sat and prayed for that sweet woman and all the others like her, that they could know their Lord and Savior and the complete peace and comfort that a relationship with Him brings.
Anyone with a chronic medical condition want to come live in Japan as a hospital waiting room relationship bulding missionary?