Ruth Hetcamp, 75, is the founder of Tokyo Inochi-no-Denwa (Lifeline), Japan's first telephone counseling service. Ruth moved to Japan from Germany in 1960 to offer face-to-face counseling to working girls in Tokyo's red-light districts. In time, she recognized the potential of a confidential, anonymous phone call to help those who would otherwise be too shy to talk about their problems. She set up IND in 1971 and when two years later its English language service, Tokyo English Lifeline (TELL) started, she was there to help. The phones have been ringing off the hook ever since: Last year in IND's 51 centers around Japan, 7,015 trained volunteers answered 702,957 calls in Japanese and TELL, 80 volunteers had 5,988 calls, many from those who were contemplating suicide. For her contribution to public welfare in Japan, this month Ruth received one of Japan's highest honors, The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays, awarded by the Emperor and the Office of the Prime Minister.

If you improve your listening skills, you will really hear what others are saying. What people put into words and what they mean are often very different, not to mention that what the other person understands is a whole other story. All these gaps lead to a lot of pain and arguments. Our volunteers go through various sensitivity trainings, and I'm convinced that if everyone did that, we would all have happier lives. In a nutshell: Don't voice your own opinion, but listen and accept others'.

The key to happiness is to find your own calling and to be truthful to that. When I arrived in 1960, I didn't know much about phone counseling. But since I saw the need for such a service, I began learning about it. In other words, you must trust that you will develop the necessary skills as you go along toward your goals.