COMMENTARY: Spam Musubi and the Gift of Service


In last week’s issue (April 15, 2010, “Cherry Blossom Festival Gets Under Way,”) we reported that when the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival’s outdoor events were canceled on April 11, due to a thunderstorm, the sensei of Church of Perfect Liberty asked the group’s booth volunteers to give away the Spam musubi they were selling as a fundraiser.

While it may be natural to share perfectly good food with others rather than allow it to go to waste, I believe simple acts such as these of giving without expecting anything in return is what community at its best is about.

Some four generations ago, many of our ancestors left their entire lives as they knew it behind in Japan, in hopes of pursuing something better. Their new lives were far from easy. Whether our forebears spent their days stooped over in the sugarcane fields from sunup to sundown, or laboring away doing backbreaking work as farmers, it is their sacrifice, determination and selflessness that has enabled our community to persevere, and thrive, despite the adversity we’ve endured over the decades.

As a greater community, we continue to face many challenges today — whether it is the economic hardships that our nonprofits and small businesses are suffering, or the collective loss of knowledge and appreciation for our cultural heritage. There are so many ways in which we, at the Nichi Bei Foundation, see “community” or generosity thriving within our own little nonprofit:

• In our most nurturing and dedicated volunteer, whose endless energy and unwavering commitment to complete any task she’s given, no matter how tedious, is beyond humbling.

• In our contributing writers, board members, advisory council members and volunteers, who have given countless hours of their time and resources to help organize and staff a community forum/fundraiser, publish our weekly newspaper and even distribute copies of our paper to various locations.

Ours is a selfless community, yet one in which the needs are great, and where just as a small gesture — the sharing, perhaps of musubi — could have greatly helped the Issei. An offer to donate either one’s time or resources could, in this day, tremendously help nonprofits.

If you are so inclined to support our efforts, whether by giving of your time and skills, or making an in-kind or monetary donation, please write to, or, or Nichi Bei Foundation, P.O. Box 15693, San Francisco, CA 94115. You can donate online at, or call us at (415) 673-1009.

We know that we are not the only recipients of such acts of kindness. We thus invite you to share your stories and anecdotes about the strength of our Nikkei community, and its adherence to an unspoken rule: When you see a need, you meet it. Please submit your stories (up to to 500 words) to: or (415) 673-1063 (fax).

Heather Horiuchi, a Yonsei, is originally from Honolulu, Hawai‘i. She is the managing editor of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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