As a Child of Kami
By Rev. Minori Narita
Konko Church of Mitachi
Being Different From Ordinary Children…
My Mother kept a notebook she used to record my growth as a baby. In it, she wrote, “a cute-looking, mild-natured, obedient girl.” about me. I seemed to appear just as normal and ordinary as the next baby girl. However, as I grew up, the people around me began to notice that I was somewhat different from other children – especially after I entered nursery school.
Normally, one would use red to paint a picture of a strawberry. But, I didn’t understand the point of painting a strawberry red, so I decided to paint it with black instead. At the music recital of my nursery school, I was asked to play the keyboard harmonica, however I couldn’t move my fingers well, and no matter how much I practiced, my skill with the instrument never improved. When I tried to play with origami, I couldn’t even fold a piece of paper in half.
By the time I entered elementary school, I was all over the place, leaving important things at home. When I forgot to bring my notebook for math to school, I ended up taking the math lessons using my notebook for kanji, or Chinese characters. When I forgot to bring my agenda, I used my general purpose notebook in order to write down that day’s homework in it.
I didn’t know the purpose of having several notebooks, let alone what each notebook was for. My notebooks had grid paper, but I could not write even one letter within the square. I didn’t really have a sense of organization – I just flipped over several pages in a notebook and suddenly began to write something on a certain page. Normally, a student uses the fifth page of their notebook for math, for example when taking notes during the class on that page. In the next math lesson, they will continue on from that previous page of their notes. However, I wasn’t able to do that, since I didn’t understand why I should. I couldn’t understand that was the normal way to use a notebook.
Even though my parents and teacher scolded me for these habits all the time, I couldn’t change them. In addition to this, when I got papers at school, I couldn’t even organize those, unable to fold them in half and I couldn’t even put them in a folder. So I had no option but to simply shove the papers into my backpack. My backpack was soon full of messy, wrinkled sheets of paper and at one point I couldn’t zip it up anymore.
I didn’t bring my homework home either. I used to say to my mother, “I already finished my homework at school.” And to my school teacher I would say, “Sorry, I forgot to bring my homework.” I lied to both of them quite often this way back and forth. To make matters worse, I didn’t know how to read the calendar so I had no idea which day of a certain month was “today,” and I had no idea which day of the week was of “today,” either.
This led to me not being able to prepare for the next lessons, not knowing which textbooks I needed. Looking at the weekly timetable of my class didn’t help me at all. It’s no wonder why I soon could not catch up with the class and lessons. And, due to my inability to follow the classes, I couldn’t pay attention at all. This was all I could do.
Hoping That I Would Never Wake Up The Next Morning
As the years progressed in elementary school, the less often I talked with people. My classmates did not like me very much by then, and they sometimes wouldn’t let me in our classroom. But the sharpest pain that I felt in my heart, the saddest thing at school, was that my homeroom teacher teased me because I forgot to bring things to school often.
The teacher stopped calling me “Miss Narita.” Instead, he started to call me “Miss Forgetful.” I knew that this mean-spirited nickname for me would soon be forgotten once I stopped forgetting to bring things to school. But I couldn’t solve this trouble at all because I didn’t want to forget things, I just couldn’t help it at all. Just being in the classroom was already too much for me.
Now that I was afraid of talking with people, I was also afraid of looking in their eyes. Since I was being treated so horribly, I grew my bangs and covered my face with them. However, my classmates got even worse, and began calling me a “monster,” for they couldn’t see my eyes due to my bangs.
I suffered from panicked breaths and hives just by being in the classroom. However, was home any more of a paradise to me in those days? No, not quite. Unfortunately at home, my Mother would often scold me too, saying things like “Why can’t you do things the way other people do?” and “Please be normal and do things normally.” Seeing Mother scold me, my eldest brother joined in, also scolding me very severely, “Stop making life difficult for Mom. Stop harassing her.” Seeing him scold me, our Father then yelled at him, making things worse.
When night fell, my parents often had arguments over me. “My family got along with each other better in the past, but it’s all been ruined because of me,” I silently convinced myself. Because of this, I made a sad habit to pray to Tenchi Kane no Kami every night, “I wish that I may I not wake up tomorrow”, when I closed my eyes for sleep that night.
My mind was full of questions; “Why am I so different from others?” “Why can’t I do things the way they do?” “Why am I still alive, even though I am suffering this much?” I often said to myself, “My life is totally meaningless, because my presence doesn’t please anyone around me at all. I only bother people. All I do is to disturb them. I’m not worth being alive.” These questions and notions were running wild inside my head, with a grave and serious weight.
My Parents’ Big Laughter
It was then the Winter of when I was in the fifth grade in elementary school. As soon as I came home, my parents merrily said “Oh, my goodness!! Our daughter came home alive!” And they both gave a big laughter. I had no idea what on earth my parents were talking about, and I was totally at a loss. According to my parents, the teacher of my school’s infirmary gave them a phone call on that day, telling them that I had said to the infirmary teacher several hours before, “What would you say if I told you that I sometimes think of killing myself?”
“Were you really thinking of killing yourself? Were you playing around?” Saying this to me, my Mother gave a big laughter again. I was so angry and frustrated with my parents’ insensitiveness about my utmost sorrow that I immediately found my eyes flooded with pouring tears. I felt like shouting at them, “Don’t laugh about this!” But there was one good thing about this situation: I was able to finally confess my long-time agony to my parents for the first time.
Finally, both my Father and Mother showed me the gentlest, most compassionate expression on their faces that I had never seen before, and listened to my story til the very end patiently and attentively.
After listening to me, my Mother then slowly got up and got some trash from the bin, and then a fresh sheet of tissue paper, and set them both before me. She then asked me, “Which of these do you think is garbage?” I was unable to answer her question and remained silent in an awkward manner. My Mother then looked convinced and brought a book titled, You Will Surely Be Fine – ADHD Workbook for Children. It was a book about children with “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” and the symptoms of it, and how to properly help children with it.
The book had a check list. We checked each item off the list together and we soon found out that I came under almost every one of the items. Several days later, my Mother took me to a hospital that was specialized for those with ADHD. And I received the diagnosis, “She has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder”
When a person suffers from ADHD, it’s said they have an issue within their brain, and that issue causes the person to have disproportionate disorganization and lack of concentration compared to their age as per the societal standards. And this causes them to have trouble carrying out daily activities at home, school and in the community. A person with these symptoms often suffer from troubles related to their relationships with others.
In the hospital, I learned how to use a calendar and the notebooks. I learned how to spend my time efficiently, and how to keep my room tidy. I was also taught that all the things around me have names and the specific reasons of their purpose. I was taught how to use everything I didn’t understand before. People at home and in elementary school had taught all those things to me over and over again, but only in the hospital was the first time I could learn all these things in the simplest, most understandable way. Every lesson at the hospital was amazingly fresh to me, and I was excited with the fact that the number of things I was now able to do was increasing little by little.
I was motivated to go to the hospital on a regular basis, and I gradually came to understand what my mother had been talking about all this time better than ever before.
By the time I became a sixth-grader, I was much more confident in myself. I was able to laugh cheerfully. I had no fear in being teased nor cared how my classmates saw me. Ever since being able to get treatment at the hospital, the teasing didn’t phase me at all. As well, these days, my siblings and I get along with one another quite well. When we remember our past, we apologize to each other, saying “I’m really sorry about that time. I hope you can forgive me.” And, to my delight and relief, I haven’t seen my parents quarrel for a very long time. I deeply treasure my family’s peace now, because we were once almost broken as a home. Now I am a member of a happy, peaceful family.
“You Are A Child of Kami“
I entered the Konko Seminary after graduating from senior high school. Soon after I entered the Seminary school, I asked my Mother a question. It was about the day when my parents laughed cheerfully, although I was sad enough to think of committing suicide.
My Mother then replied, “I noticed you were becoming sadder and sadder as days went by, because you were always focused on your shortcomings and what you could not do. As your Mom, I was so strict on you because I felt it would help you survive in society after you grew up. I didn’t intend to impose lofty expectations on you, but at the very least, I still hoped for you to be able to learn the typical way of doing things to manage in society alone as an adult. It was the only thing I hoped for you. Yet, my desire for you to become as usual as others gradually got the better of me, and made me focus on what you couldn’t do. And, I believed my strict attitude would benefit you in the end. However..seeing your feeling on a daily basis, made me consider the way I treated you wasn’t the best.
The teachers of your elementary school, your classmates, me as your Mom, your Dad, your brothers, everyone is cherished like a child by Kami – and you are a cherished child of Kami too. When I thought about this, I realized that to raise you as my child is to also raise a cherished child of Kami. I realized that it was important to show you love with a sincere, warm smile as I raised you. You know, as the Founder teaches us, ‘It is said that the foundation of faith begins with the home.’
The Mother is like the sun for her family. The Mother, as the sun of her family, has a desire to protect and nurture her family brightly and cheerfully. However, when the Mother gets gloomy, the whole family will also fall into darkness. I tried to be that bright sun to help every one of my children become good, upstanding members of society.
But, while wanting to raise you well, I forgot the most important thing, especially at the beginning of the troubles. I realized that understanding that my children are also Kami‘s loved and cherished children, was the most important thing. So at that moment, I realized that to be that bright warm sun was not only nurturing to raise you into good members of society, but more importantly, to be expressing my love, cheerfulness, and warmth. And, this is why I gave such a hearty laughter toward you at that critical time.”
Hearing her answer to my question, all the ill feelings I had harbored against my Mother were no more. I understood exactly what she meant, and finally understood her feelings at that time. I also deeply understood that I was alive up to that point because my parents tried hard to smile and laugh a lot for me and my brothers, despite the difficulties.
The Goyo (Sacred task) of Kibimai and me
I began to learn Kibimai (Sacred Dance of Kibi region, the name of ancient Okayama) when I was four-years-old. The older I became, the more often I was assigned to do Kibimai as goyo (A sacred task done sincerely for Kami). There was usually a practice session before I dedicated Kibimai to Kami. In that occassion, I often had to go to Konko Town by bullet train from my hometown Himeji, to the birthplace of Konko Faith all by myself. In those days, it wasn’t so dangerous, and my Grandfather also lived in Konko Town. He made it a rule to wait for my arrival at the train station of Shin-Kurashiki.
He always kindly waved his hand to welcome me at the station. After the practice was done, my Grandfather was sometimes kind enough to take me back to Himeji. My Grandmother taught me Kibimai, so being praised by her was my main focus, and I practiced very hard. On weekends, and during consecutive holidays, I often had residential training for Kibimai at my Grandfather’s house, and I practiced very intensely. In addition, at home, I put one-kilogram weights on my arms and legs and walked every day in order to build up my physique for the dance. And to make myself appear beautiful and elegant by having perfect posture for the dance, I tied a metal ruler onto my back. Even with such an uncomfortable situation, I used to practice the dance for many hours.
After I became a junior high school student, I was sometimes frustrated with myself, not being able to dance as well as I wanted to. One day, I was finally fed up with myself and said to my Mother, “I don’t want to dance Kibimai anymore.” My Mother started to shed tears and said intensely, “If you give up Kibimai, what would all of your hard work have been for? What would you say you will still have in you?” It was the first time for me to see my Mother’s tears. That sight made me shed a lot of tears as well and we both continued to cry. Since then, I gained a whole new perspective on the importance of Kibimai to me.
I once had no place I belonged to; I was anything but comfortable at home and in my school. I was getting busier and busier with Kibimai related goyo as years passed by. Therefore, I usually spent weekends in Konko Town. When I was in Konko Town, I was able to spend hours in a healing place. I believed that Kibimai was goyo even someone like me was able to accomplish and that it was important goyo which many people can become happy. When I reflect upon those days in the past, my church, The Konko Church of Mitachi, had been far from a wealthy church, and I felt there was no way the Mitachi Church was able to afford my transportation fees between Himeji and Konko Town on such a frequent basis.
However, I was in fact able to go between Himeji and Konko Town often to my great wonder. I was able to develop my Kibimai skills, my personality, and spirituality. How was this all possible? In my humble observation, it is probably because Kami, and my parents prayed for me and my development as a Kibimai performer, and as an individual. The sincerity and depth of their prayers for me must have been far beyond my imagination.
For that reason, I wanted to spend my time in Konko Town embracing the Sacred Grounds of the Konko Faith as soon as possible. And so, I felt moved to enter the Konko Seminary School.
When My Heart Was Full of Anxiety…
Until I entered the seminary, I had naively assumed that I was familiar with the Konko Faith. I thought so because I had been raised at a local Konko Church and I had grown up through the goyo of Kibimai. But once I entered the Seminary, I was soon made to realize how shallow and shaky my faith was. I was so disappointed with myself that I felt like throwing my faith away. Earlier, I’d felt Kami close to me and often called to them as “my dear divine parent.” But my dissatisfaction with myself now hindered me from calling to Kami with a free, relaxed mind.
In terms of the “path” I should follow after my graduation from the Konko Seminary, my parents strongly recommended me to work at the Konko Headquarters. I felt it was a good idea, since I was familiar with Konko Town, and I had been able to develop as a Kibimai performer and as a person with strong spirituality in this town. Because of these reasons, I applied to be an intern within the Konko Administration.
However, on the other hand, I began to be filled with anxiety, and this was my dark side. People around me said, “You will surely pass the interview. No one fails to do so. You will be all right!” With these words, they kindly encouraged me. But I just couldn’t think so. Why not? Because I didn’t really have any true passion for administrative work. I was also worrying about living on my own in a dorm in Konko Town. At that time, I had no stability in my heart. One side of me said, “I will do my best!” The other side of me said, “I don’t know what to do from now. How in the world can I do my best?” I was at a complete loss, and I found my heart filled with anxiety.
I couldn’t take it anymore, so I decided to ask for Sacred Mediation at the Central Worship Hall. As soon as I sat before the Mediation Place (Okekkai), I couldn’t stop tears from falling out of my eyes. I apologized to Konko-sama, the Spiritual Head of the Konko Faith, “I’m sorry that I am crying.” Then Konko-sama gently responded, “Don’t worry. The mediation seat is a place where you can recenter your heart. Please let out everything you wish in your heart and mind freely, and you will surely feel much better.” Inspired by Konko-sama‘s words of encouragement, I said everything on my mind to our Principal Mediator.
Konko-sama kindly gave me responses to each of the things I told him. He said, “To start with, you applied to become an intern in the Konko Administration. The fact that you applied, I believe, means that you have entrusted this new endeavor to Kami. As long as you entrust this endeavor to Kami, you do not need to worry about it. Whether or not you will be employed as an intern, Kami‘s consideration to your happiest future will be behind the result.
Whether or not you will be employed, the most important thing is how you will grow and mature from now. Therefore, this is not something you need to worry about. Second of all, as for your past, I encourage you to acknowledge your strength. I say this, because you endured so many adversities in your childhood and are still here today. You then should try to not have the past haunt you, and to realize the blessings in moving forward into a happy future. The former, Fourth Konko-sama teaches us, ‘Do not be obsessed with things that make your life painful.’ If you continuously think about all the pain you’ve endured, you will soon find that you have trapped yourself in the past. It’s important to be able to keep moving forward into the future. Lastly, you often say that you’ve made other’s lives difficult because of your ADHD. But I would like to help you remember that you are alive amidst Kami‘s blessings. You have been cherished by Kami since your birth up to now, receiving the blessings of the workings of nature.
But, let’s say perhaps you really have caused trouble for the people around you, just as you say. But, despite this trouble you say, you and everyone around you has been able to receive blessings, grow, learn, and mature together. It is a wonderful blessing from Kami to be thankful for. In addition, today you will soon graduate from the Konko Seminary school. You came here today. You were called to come today. You needed to come here today. There is a significant meaning in you having come here today.”
Through this Sacred Mediation, Konko-sama kindly taught me that despite all the suffering, my sense of self-doubt, my feeling that I was making other’s lives difficult, and all the other painful memories of the past; Kami‘s blessings, the gifts and workings of nature, were continuously surrounding me. Kami never abandoned me to suffer, but continuously and tirelessly worked for me to have a truly happy future, wishing to see my happiness.
I deeply appreciated Konko-sama‘s words of spiritual guidance, and my heart came to be filled with deep gratitude for my parents, who had raised me with love, and as a cherished child of Kami. I was so grateful that I shed tears as I thanked Kami. As I did so, I truly and deeply then resolved to cherish the Sacred Mediation with Konko-sama on that day for the rest of my life.
The fact, “I am here now,” means that I am a child of Kami, our divine parent. I may not have been an ordinary girl. I underwent a lot of ordeals. However, because I am a child of our divine parent, like everyone, Kami has protected, guided and loved me through everything. No matter what happens from now on, as a child of Kami, I would like to do goyo with consideration how to help Kami and for my parents to be proud of my goyo.