Postcards for Japan–Add Yours, Too

My parents were refugees when they arrived here. Four wooden crates, combined to a size of a medium refrigerator and a small top-loading washer,  spoke for the first four decades of the lives of my parents and my two brothers. Those boxes contained everything–bedding, towels, clothing, shoes, books, kitchenware, toys (I remember only one), and what was left of their life. No furniture, no appliances, and certainly no TV, car, lawnmower, ladder, buckets or all the other items a family of four would accumulate to make up a life.

Tonia from Phoenix made these bright watercolor cards with rounded corners.

I was born the next year, so I don’t remember the first desperate weeks. What I do remember is that I never knew we were poor. We played tag and ball outside, climbed trees, and used our imaginations. At night, we would lie outside and my Father would tell us about the stars or tell stories. My oldest brother would read stories and poems he was learning in school. We didn’t have a TV till I was 16 years old. One of my most precious possessions from that time, so important that I have it still, was a postcard sent by a family friend. On one side was an image of an exotic place, on the other side was. . .a message just for me. “Wish you were here.” I has been in every room, apartment, condo, and house I’ve owned. It was in the studio when the house burned in 2003, and I have what is left of it still.

Anne from Australia made these mixed media postcards. Some have Japanese handwriting on the back!

Postcards are small art works, sent from the heart. They confirm affection, being missed, being included, being thought of. How could they not be wonderful?

When the earthquake collapsed Fukushima, Japan, and washed away homes, towns, cars, boats, and thousands of lives, my heart clenched. I saw children homeless, having lost everything, standing in refugee centers. I sent money, but I wanted to

Bo from Wisconsin sent in these bright one-stroke watercolor postcards.

do more. I remembered that precious postcard and decided that  a small piece of handmade art could still be precious. Could let a child know they were remembered, thought of, prayed for, cherished, even in such bleak circumstances. I cannot send enough money, I can’t go there and work or comfort people, but I can send a piece of handmade art, because art speaks directly to the heart, no translators needed.

Bea from Redondo Beach, CA sent in these mixed media postcards. The backs all have stories about Abraham Lincoln, and the front have colorful images.

When I asked people to send postcards to me so I could forward them to the children, I had no idea how many would come. I thought people might send me a postcard or two. But the postcards have started to come in. In envelopes. In bunches. I smiled with the first ones, and cried when I pulled more envelopes out of the post office box. I thought I’d share the first ones with you here, and encourage you to make yours, too, and send them in. They don’t have to be perfect, or wonderful. Just made with love.

Thank you so much Tonia in Phoenix, Bo in Tucson (on her way back to Madison!), Anne in Australia and Bea in Redondo Beach, California. Thanks for taking the time and spending money on postage.  You remind me of the truth of what Mother Theresa said:  “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

If you haven’t made a postcard yet, I am happy to get more.  Send them to: Sakura Children c/o
P.O. Box 12183

You can see larger versions of the postcards on my Flickr site.
-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and writer who is thrilled to know that friends and strangers alike care for others.

The Heart of Japan’s Disaster

Sakura (cherry blossom) by S. Tagaki

The damage in Japan is so great, I feel like I am drowning in the sadness, the loss, the hopelessness.  I am the child of refugee immigrants, who came in poverty, having lost everything. It makes a difference to your aspirations, to your memories. How sad it must be to be a refugee in your own country.

Today a friend shared this insightful letter from Sachiko Takagi,  a Japanese woman of amazing strength and resilience who writes about her country’s tragedy. I have her permission to quote her letter, which I have broken into lines to read like the poetry it is:

Japan, March 2011, Going Forward
It has been 10 days since the earthquake.
Recalling what has been happening, I feel like many more days have passed.

Our biggest concern and fear is the nuclear power plant.
Last Wednesday, our manager forced the staff to go home early
to avoid the possible exposure in radiation.
We also fear radiation-contaminated food.

I do not expect nuclear power plant to be recovered and in use again.
This means that Tokyo and other cities have to live
with less electric power, going forward.

In Tokyo, all department stores and shopping malls close at 6 p.m. to save energy.
All places, stations, shopping malls, even pachinko parlors, are in dim light.
Only 3 out of 6 elevators are in service at Ebisu Garden Place, where my office is located.

But I think this is fine.
This is the world we live, going forward.
We have learned we can live with dim light and no shopping after 6 p.m.

I can not forget a scene I watched on TV.
300 Mercedes, shipped and docked at the harbor, were on fire
and drifted to the sea.
We do not need luxury anymore.

Today is the holiday as Spring Equinox Day.
It was a cold rainy day.
I think of people who stay in cold gyms with no air condition.

All I can do is to pray and do some donation.
On Saturday, I went to a shrine to pray and there was a park nearby.
The attached is the picture of cherry blossom at the park.

Please tell your students that we are in hard times but we are not desperate.
We feel that your thoughts are with us.
Thank you for your care and love.
Spring comes here soon!


* * *
If you would like to donate to the Japanese relief funds, the Network for Good, is

We hold you to the light, © Quinn McDonald

a page of links from charities, churches, and agencies that are helping with food and water.

If you would like to make a postcard with a short message of care, of hope, of blessing, of reaching out to show we are a country of compassion and not just fighter planes, I will find a way to get it to children in Japan, a small way to let them know that they are remembered, held to the light by people they will never meet.   That’s my postcard up there.

Send your postcards to:
Sakura Children c/o
P.O. Box 12183
Glendale, AZ 85318

“Sakura” means Cherry Blossom in Japanese.

–Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and writer who hopes to get a few handmade postcards to send to children who have lost everything.