Monday, June 20, 2011

A Great Day for a Great Cause

Yesterday our tea group held a benefit for the earthquake victims of Sendai, Japan. Even though it’s been several months since the tsunami hit that region, the cleanup continues, and the people are still struggling to put their lives back in order. More than 23,000 people died as a result of the earthquakes and the tsunami, and countless more were affected. It’s hard to comprehend the scope of the tragedy, and even though our efforts were pretty small in comparison to what needs to be done, we were happy to be able to do something – particularly for the people of Sendai, who have been so generous to us in the past.

We did six sittings total – three for thin tea (usucha) in the 15-mat room that looks out over the garden, and three more thick tea (koicha) in the actual tearoom, which is 4 ½ mats including the alcove (tokonoma). In my mind, I’m seeing some of the people from the large Urasenke branches who do tea for hundreds of people in a single day saying, “Ha! That’s nothing!” But for us, it was a big day.

The credit for putting everything together goes to Taeko Shervin sensei, who came up with this idea back in March and has spent the past couple of months putting everything together, including making all of the sweets herself (a hundred each of two different kinds of dry sweets for thin tea and 50 moist sweets for koicha; her friend Wada-san also made dry sweets for us). But the staff at the Japanese House, where the benefit was held, also deserve a lot of thanks for all their hard work in making it happen. They really helped to promote it, and of course did a lot of work getting the house ready and managing all the visitors.

People were so generous, it really blew us away. There was one man from a tattoo shop in Philadelphia who raised $2,300 for tsunami victims, but wasn’t sure what to do with it; when he heard about this event he decided to give the money to this fund. There was also a little girl who, on her birthday, asked people to donate for the tsunami victims rather than getting presents; she brought her money to the event too.

At the end of the day, there were about 250 people who came through the house (though not all of them had tea; there was an artist named Aaron Mannino who did an art installation on the house grounds, and there were a number of visitors who came specifically to see that), and the event raised about $7,000, including donations that came in from people who couldn’t make it on that day.

To everyone who helped and everyone who came, thank you so much!

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