By Lt. Col. John Cotton, 35th Aerospace Medicine Squadron commander
/ Published May 03, 2012
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
I've been in Misawa for less than a year but I really love being here. When my family and I lived in Germany, we liked the slower pace and safer lifestyle. We were eager to experience the Japanese version and we haven't been disappointed yet. Not only have we enjoyed the culture, but we've even reunited with old friends here, a testament to the fact that the longer you're in the Air Force the smaller it gets.
Judging by what you've just read, you may be tempted to call me a "glass half full" kind of person. While I'm not a pessimist, I am definitely not a Pollyanna - an unfailing optimist - by any stretch. Instead, I live by the advice once given to me by a wise, slightly eccentric neurologist. Dr. Epstein used to say that you may not be able to change events, but you can change how you react to them. I often reflect on these words when I am faced with challenging issues that come up in my job.
This advice has taken on new meaning for me since moving to Misawa. Many residents here like to lump people into either the "glass half empty" or "glass half full" category, but regardless of how you look at it, there's still room in the glass. Depending on the day, sometimes our emotional "glass" is half full and sometimes it's half empty. Instead of focusing on how to look at the level, I think that we should embrace the Japanese custom of filling glasses.
At one of the wing's Host Nation customs and courtesies briefings, I learned that when you are in a group, it is customary to fill the glasses of others so that they never become empty. Others in turn return the favor by filling yours. To me, it is a profound insight into the ethos of the Japanese people: you are part of something bigger where everyone is expected to serve each other.
In the Air Force family, we are all part of something bigger too, and one of our core values is Service Before Self. Here in Misawa, we also stress the importance of community. Right now in our community, there are many members, whose glasses have been nearly drained, either from last year's earthquake, from the long winter, from the high ops tempo, or from other life circumstances. When our glasses are pretty full, we should look to fill those in our community whose glasses are closer to empty. That's what Misawa residents did for the Japanese during Operation Tomodachi; ensured that their emotional level never ran dry. In turn, we should also expect others to do the same for us when we're running low. That way, we as a community serve each other and take care of each other, perhaps changing how we react to what life presents us.