Quiet and common notions...shared here...with you! Of life ~ our hearts and our home.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Living the Life | Salt of the Earth

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In anticipation of the season to come, gift-giving is obviously on the mind.  We've just come from a season of giving thanks - to what we now think of as a season of giving gifts.

Please enjoy this lengthy excerpt (I know..) and may it be something for us all to consider.  For certainly all of us have room enough, to grow, in our hearts, of putting ourselves aside and to think of others...instead.
 Even if it requires more than the usual bout of sacrifice, which we may already graciously give!

At the busy intersection of Ginza and Z streets in downtown Tokyo was a small wooden box fastened to a post.  The box, like a neatly built birdhouse, had a slot underneath it's slanted roof and miniature door in the lower right hand corner.  At intervals during day or night, people would open the tiny door and take out several coins.  Then they would shuffle off into the crowd.

At least once a day a well-dressed Japanese gentleman dropped coins or paper yen into the slot beneath the slanted roof.  Without glancing to the right or left he, too, disappeared.

This "give-and-take" caught the imagination of hundreds of Japanese.  They called it the "Salt of the Earth" movement, a unique adventure in anonymous charity.

It began on September 10, 1956, when 46 year old Shinichi Eguchi nailed the first box to a light-post near the Hagoromo Bridge in Chiba city, a Tokyo suburb.  Eguchi, who wrote inspirational verse, was convinced that the most worthwhile line he ever composed was the one on that first box,

"Whoever is truly in need is free to help himself to the money inside".

A desperate man gave Eguchi the idea for the venture.  The man had told Eguchi that life had dealt him so many bad breaks that he was determined to kill himself and his family of five.  Eguchi responded by getting the man a job and moving this man and his family into his own home.  The wages the man earned, however, were so inadequate for his family that his eldest daughter, aged 15, became a prostitute.  When Eguchi heard of this he blamed himself for not having done more for this family.  Poverty, he declared, is everyone's sin and everybody's responsibility.  He vowed that he would give 1,000 yen (about $3 a day) to charity for the rest of his life.

He recalled a legend about a money box in the Swiss Alps, in which villagers claimed was watched over by the Lord.  People put money into the box to help the poor, who took out what they needed and without abusing the privilege.  When things were better with those who had been aided, they sometimes replaced what they had taken.  But the donations always exceeded the demand.  Even thieves never pilfered the box and everyone in the village became more generous and brotherly-minded because of it.

This story of the Swiss Money Box became associated in Eguchi's mind along with a Scripture passage he had learned as a boy - when he had first become a Christian.  "Ye are the salt of the earth, but if the salt hath lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted?"  And thus began his ministry...

Eguchi converted a discarded milk box into a "Salt of the Earth" box and wrote on it a message to the needy.  He fastened it to a post near the Hagoromo Bridge.

As he was "salting" this first box with a handful of yen, an official came along and asked what was going on.  When Eguchi explained, the official thought it preposterous, but to show good will he too dropped some money into the box.

During the first six months, the boxes were destroyed fourteen times.  Sometimes it was juvenile vandalism but often adults wrecked the boxes - just the same.  Eguchi took these setbacks as a test of faith and kept replacing the boxes.

One day Eguchi found a scribbled note in the box from an unemployed laborer.  The laborer had said that at one point he contemplated suicide but that the box  had made him change his mind.

Later other notes appeared.

One woman wrote that the few yen she had taken had kept her family from starvation.  A thief confessed that he had been on his way to rob a house, but as he was about to take some money from the box, it seemed he heard a voice.  Withdrawing his empty hand he decided to go straight.  Later, when he was helped by a friend to find an honest job he gave credit to the "Salt-of-the-Earth".

One day a well-to-do merchant, who had often seen poet Eguchi "salt" the box, decided that he too would like to put up a box of his own.  Inquiring how to proceed, he was told that there were no rules governing the size or construction of the box or where it should be placed.  However, there was but one requirement: whoever put up a box would have to promise that they or an associate would place some money in it  every day.

Readily agreeing, the merchant installed his box.  When a typhoon struck Tokyo and hardly anyone dared venture out, a policeman spied the merchant fighting his way against the roaring wind to put money in the box.  This so impressed the policeman that he, too, set up a box in a different section of the city.

Eguchi began publishing a small bulletin for free distribution, placed in a receptacle beneath each box.  The four-page pamphlet contained testimonials, essays on the power of faith, and poetry.  One issue carried these lines: "Wounded pilgrim, take help from this box; Rich or poor, wounded traveler be filled from this box.  Be filled."

Eguchi eventually distributed over 14,000 copies of the bulletins each month and placed an additional 6,000 under the boxes at his own expense.  Publishing the bulletin and supporting the boxes was such a drain that Eguchi frequently pawned personal belongings to keep his "pact with the Lord."  His wife and two sons, aged 13 and 19, cooperated with him in the adventure.

The movement grew and soon there were over four-hundred "Salt of the Earth" boxes in Japan, along with others scattered throughout the United States, placed there by tourists who learned about the movement in Japan.

"When you join the 'Salt of the Earth' movement," said Eguchi, "you are uniting with an unseen fellowship.  A person who makes and supports a box becomes a changed person.  In the past if he had been reluctant to trust people he begins to have faith.  If he has been tyrannical, he mellows.  If he has been idle, he becomes industrious.  The greatest mission of the the boxes is in the new outlook on life they bring to the donors and receivers alike."

Changes took place in others, too.  One Japanese townsman testified that he used to spit at the box whenever he passed by.  But he became so impressed by the loyalty of the man who kept the box "salted" that he constructed a box of his own and pledged to support it.

Eguchi's theory was that a person should give and then forget about the gift.  "We should not mind," the poet insisted, "if a hoodlum takes money out of a box to use it for his alcoholic merrymaking.  No one ever knows what the final outcome may be."

In another issue of one of Eguchi's bulletins, he shared a story of a drunkard who confessed he had been taking coins from the box for drink.  One morning, however, his conscience bothered him so much that he put some yen into the box instead.  This act of restitution so filled him with self-respect that he decided to stop drinking.

Shinichi Eguchi felt that any hard-and-fast organization would rob the program of its selfless spirit. So the project had no president, no directors and no one to solicit contributions.

"What we are trying to do," Eguchi said, "is get a box in every village and city in our country.  Then we can dare approach and challenge other nations.  And only when every nation is inspired by selfless love and service will the true meaning of the 'Salt of the Earth' program be realized.  It is not merely a matter of giving the money - it is, the most of all, a matter of living the life."

~ selected piece taken from the October, 2015 - Fishwrapper.  The original story by Marcus Bach, 1961, condensed and edited.

I've never seen a box like this in real-life!  I'd be curious if anyone reading here, has... or perhaps you know of something similar - in action.


  1. Bevy, what a great thing to share... this is the first time I have heard of this with money, but in our Central Park and in another semi large city about 25 minutes from my town, silent givers have been placing Winter coats, and scares around telephone poles, tree trunks, with note attached if needed please take freely.. some small restaurants also have place signs in the window if you are hungry, come inside we will gladly share a free meal.. Alot of homeless individuals have migrated to our town and surrounding towns.. which actually was few and far between for years.. I am sure the economy, has played a huge role as well as drug addiction. I think this awesome, we also have church without walls in our park where on Saturday mornings, pastors gather share the gospel and share a breakfast to all of those who stop by... God is working in our country, and people just need to rid themselves of the selfishness and start giving and help the less fortunate... Great post... I know this wasnt exactly like your post but goodness needs shared I believe... Bless you friend...

    1. Ahh yes! I have read and seen photos of the coat idea.. but not in "person". What a great idea, as well!


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