For Ruby Sakuma who was always so enthusiastic about my essays. I miss her terribly and know that she is smiling, happy to know that I’m still writing.
If there’s one thing I wished I was able to capture on film, it is of Ruby laughing. She would throw her head back, crinkle her eyes (and often wipe away some tears at the corner), slap her desk or knees and let out the heartiest and most musical laughter I have ever heard. One could almost visualize huge HAHAHA letters running across a comic strip frame. It is the sound of golden sunshine breaking through the clouds. I have never seen or heard anything more effusive or lyrical. And then there are those classic Ruby lines that are equally expressive such as: “What a scream!” and “I nearly fell over!” I am not at all surprised when Charles tells me that one of his favorite things to do in the office is to make Ruby, who sits across from him, laugh.
I see Ruby whenever I drop by the 2HJ office. Her work giving out food to people is very much a part of who she is to me. Even before working with 2HJ, she volunteered with the homeless program in Shinjuku for many years.
We would meet there before or at 8:00, set up, feed the people in the snow, in the rain, in the heat, in the beautiful sakura, every season of the year we would do it. It makes sense to feed people who are hungry and also because it’s something that you do and they can’t do anything to repay you. Of course they always say thank you but it also goes along with the Bible verse Matthew 25, you feed the least of these my brothers, you feed me. And I like that.
Working at 2HJ was a great fit and obviously something that was more than a job for Ruby.
The main mission of feeding people is what I like about it. It’s very simple and meets a very basic human need. I like that here is this food that would otherwise go to waste and here are some hungry people and you put them together and you’ve solved a problem. It’s such a beautiful idea. That’s not to say that it’s simple or easy. There are a lot of people who are a real headache to deal with when you try to feed them, but still it’s a good thing to do and that’s why I commit so much of my time and heart to 2HJ.
I consider myself very fortunate to spend time with Ruby outside of 2HJ. Ruby often went out of her way every now and then to ask how I was doing (how I was adjusting to married life and life in Tokyo) and making time to meet over lunch or coffee. Even though Ruby is a very private person, she shared her own journey of how difficult, upsetting and sometimes lonely her first years in Japan were. That was a huge comfort for me to know that there was someone who understands and cares about me, and who was to me, family.
When Little Ruby had her open-heart surgery, Ruby came to spend some time with us at the waiting room and entertained us with her crazy misadventures with Japanese banks, so crazy they were amusing. I was moved that even though Ruby had her own set of worries, she took the time to be present to us and even for a few hours, remove us from our own worries.
Ruby was so happy when I found a part-time job writing for Eco+Waza. I always shared my articles with her and she always, always took the time to write me a thoughtful feedback of what she learned or what struck her. Of all the people I share my articles with, I looked forward to hearing from Ruby the most and I’m surely going to miss her replies. She’s always so positive, encouraging and supportive of my writing. Someday, if I do write a book, I know I’ll have Ruby to thank.
Even before Charles and I got married and even before Little Ruby was conceived, we knew for certain that we both wanted to name our first baby girl Ruby. Over the years, as I got to know Ruby better and spend some time with her, all the more I am glad that we named our daughter after Ruby. We can only hope that our Little Ruby would grow up to also have Big Ruby’s sense of humor and fun, her spiritedness, her graciousness, her kindness, and her strength.