Tetsu Nakamura, a Japanese physician who labored for many years in Afghanistan to construct irrigation systems and support the country's agriculture industry, died on Dec. 4 after a car he was traveling in was attacked by an armed group.
Newspapers and television news in Japan covered his death extensively, but it seems that Afghans also mourned their beloved doctor by holding a candlelight vigil and other commemorative events.
When Dr. Nakamura first arrived in Afghanistan to provide medical aid, he noticed many children suffering from dysentery as a result of drinking contaminated water. He apparently thought that it wasn't enough to stay inside the confides of his clinic and launched efforts to dig wells. It was reported in the media that he "exchanged his stethoscope for a shovel."
As a doctor myself, I was greatly drawn to his activities, which motivated me to read his books and attend his lectures. It always made me think, "He's extraordinary. I don't have this kind of ability to act. What can I do then?"
In modern times, everyone is so busy just trying to stay afloat. Rather than venturing out into a dangerous field or taking on trouble, we all want to live a safe and convenient life. If possible, we want to have enough money to enjoy affluence. Most believe that such a way of life is the best for the sake of their families and themselves. I also always tell myself the same thing.
But when reading Dr. Nakamura's books or other writings about him, it makes me realize there are people born in countries without enough water, who cannot receive an education due to poverty, and even children who die of illness due to water pollution or fatigue as they have to help out around the house. And they didn't choose to be born in such environments.
Should we just pretend that such things aren't happening? By turning a blind eye, am I really living my life true to myself? Isn't it more rewarding to lead a life in which you do what you can to the fullest, even at the cost of a comfortable life?
Though I've never talked with Dr. Nakamura in person, I have felt him questioning me through his books and lectures: "Are you ok with yourself like that? Are you helping out others as a doctor?"
Dr. Nakamura may have been disappointed to suddenly face death, but I personally can't stop thinking that he did all he could. It seems that although his family was worried about him they had been supportive of him, a man who was willing to risk everything for what he did.
How about me? If I was to suddenly die one day, would I be able to say that I lived my life to the fullest? How about everyone else who is reading this article?
Of course, not everyone can live like Dr. Nakamura, but if we could lead a life in which we could believe that we were helping others, even a little bit, the world would become a better place.
(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)