by Ian de Stains

Sometimes, when you write the occasional col­umn such as this, friends and acquaintances invite you to things in which they are involved in the not-altogether-unreasonable expectation that you will write about their efforts. If you accept the invita­tion, there is always the uneasy question in the back of your mind—What shall I do if I hate it?—and there is never an easy answer. Likewise, you worry about being too fulsome for fear you’re seen as par­tial.

Let me confess: I usually avoid the whole thing. Which is conceivably why this column is more occa­sional than our dear editor would like it to be. Early in June, however, I was invited to attend a perfor­mance given by a number of very special friends. I had no hesitation in accepting and I have none in saying that it was quite one of the most rewarding performances I have seen in a very long time.

The children of the Tokyo International Learn­ing Community, a school for children with special needs, celebrated graduation day with the world premiere of an original play that featured such well known songs that had the audience singing loudly, if not always unanimously, along. Like all good performances, this had many of us rolling in the aisles and reaching for the hankies, and I shall not forget in a long time the most sincerely endearing curtain call I’ve ever seen.

This is not, and please forgive the pun, a puff-piece. The play was well conceived and written by a member of the TILC’s devoted staff who, like all the others, clearly put in a great deal of love and effort to help the children realise it.

It would be unfair, and it is unnecessary, for me to mention individual teachers and volunteers. TILC is a community effort that survives and grows be­cause personal egos and ambitions are set aside. Even the children, while not denied their moments of individual glory, were clearly set on helping each other, so I shall not single out any of them either.

That these latter did so well, despite a variety of handicaps of varying degrees, is to the enduring credit of all involved and, proof, if such were needed, that the TILC concept both works and is needed.

What is also necessary, of course, is support. The school depends heavily on volunteer effort, since the need for one-on-one help is so high. But profession­ally qualified full- and part-time staff must also be hired. And we all know that running any sort of operation in Tokyo and environs is expensive. TILC is a non-profit organization. It needs, and deserves, our help.

I wasn’t charged admission to see the gradua­tion day show, so what I thought I’d do is make a donation to TILC equal to the cost of every theater ticket I buy over the next year: it’ll be like taking along a friend. Won’t you join me in making a similar contribution? You might not notice the difference; TILC will, I promise you. Dragon’s honor!