In a society where job-changing is frowned upon and lifetime employment is the norm rather than the exception, he made the courageous decision to quit a stable job for an exchange program. Taking his life-savings with him to Boston, he will be living in a dormitory for a year to study in an ESL.
"One moment please," he requested while punching in hiragana on his mobile phone to find the right words to express himself.
"Just say 'hang on'," I explained, "'One moment please' is too formal!"
"I get it. Hang on."
He smiled as he read off the tiny screen. "It is unbelievable that I am having dinner with a foreigner and talking in English."
"信じられない? Why?" I asked.
"不思議… Because I couldn't speak English before. I think your school has the best teachers! Studying English at your school has changed my life. Meeting you (the teachers) have changed my life."
In any other context, it would have sounded cheesy and insincere, but coming from him, I knew he meant every word of it.
And in that moment, I realized how important my job was to my students- that to them I held the key to getting a promotion at work, understanding and being understood by foreign clients or customers, more travel opportunities and knowing other cultures.
Thank you, for that humbling experience, for that tiny sense of pride that rose within me, for that sense of accomplishment that I have done something good in my one year here.