Kindness of Heart

2 min read

There is a service in Japan that allows people to borrow an umbrella for free in trains stations and libraries called “goodwill umbrellas.”

This service is meant to help people without an umbrella on a rainy day. One station in the city of Nagoya, which has provided this service for 55 years, has lent out over one hundred and twenty thousand umbrellas — however almost none have been returned.

With regard to the ineffectiveness of these goodwill umbrellas, it is said that, “books, money, and umbrellas are things that just aren’t returned when lent out.” Who knows how many borrowed umbrellas have been thrown away because its plastic had stuck together.

Akira Fujikake, a psychological counselor who researches the relationship between rain and the mind, says,

“Contrary to adults, for small children, the act of opening an umbrella to shield oneself from the rain is a step towards independence.”

For instance, in the picture book “Amagasa,”by Taro Yashima, there is a scene in which a three year-old girl uses an umbrella by herself for the first time on her way to kindergarten.

In this story, the girl feels like a grownup by walking on her own and using the umbrella without her parents’ help. Even though she’s often forgetful, on this day she actually remembers to bring her umbrella with her as she meets her parents bringing her home. The story depicts the moment we protect ourselves for the first time, a moment most of us have completely forgotten by the time we are adults.

This independence, sparked in children by way of an umbrella, would seem to indicate we prefer to share our own umbrella with someone else, rather than borrow one from a convenience store or another person. If this is the same spirit we can recognize in goodwill umbrellas, then perhaps we can return to a spirit of kindness by lending our umbrella to someone else.


Adapted from the original article in Japanese by Housecom.
Read the original here.


Also published on Medium.

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