2007 Sejong Writing Competition

Winning Entries :: Essays :: Junior first place

Building bridges between generations
Eunice Lee

My parents gave me the look. The look they gave me when I was not studying. The disappointment in their faces was pretty obvious; they wanted me to finish another ten pages. Secretly I yelled in my head, “This is my summer vacation!” The inner me plotted to throw my textbooks at my neighbor’s vicious pit bull. I put on my poker face but emotionally sulked back to my desk. I imagined what my future life would be like; going to an IVY League College winning numerous prestigious awards, but instead, I would be wanting my passion for freelance writing and missioning to grow. Just as my head was nodding off, I snapped back into reality, realizing my future plans to travel the world were definitely going down the drain.

Recently, I went to the Atlantic Opening Taekwondo Championships where I competed in poomse (forms). I remember myself, standing among the busy crowd listening vaguely to the opening speech Master Han, from our Academy, was giving. As Master Han introduced each dojang master from at least five different states, everyone quieted down. Afterwards, a group of women came out to sing the Star Spangled Banner in acapella version. I remember those women harmonizing, not missing a single rhythm and the tone of their voices balanced. As soon as the last voice ceased, the spectators jumped up to their feet and gave a standing ovation. When the noise was brought down, a floating pink blossom swept up the stairs. While I strained my eyes to see clearer, Master Han introduced his sister-in-law. She gracefully took the mike and started singing the National Korean Anthem.

It struck me then, not with the beautiful story and spirit of the song, but with the deep, satisfying meaning it had to go with it. The words tell about the rare and radiant beauty of Korea: how Naamsaan’s pine trees are like armor, how the Tong Hai Sea and Pakdoo Mountain stand firm no matter what tries to penetrate, and how God will bless Korea forever. I remember getting goose bumps and a strange filling sensation that seared my body with chills. Toward the last part of the anthem, I scanned the crowd until my eyes rested on my father’s face. He was standing up, with his back hunched over from years of labor and his eyes lost and preoccupied faraway in his mind. His roughened hands were at his side, looking lonely.

I ran to his seat where he barely even noticed me as I grasped his hand. Just by looking into the rivulets of wrinkles in it, I could see the stories he had along with the hardships he had gone through. Plunging into a moment of past experiences, I pictured his life with the childhood tales he had told me when he was my age. I imagined the harsh and severe winters in Korea, where he and his siblings had to warm up icy water on the stove for hours before being able to bathe. With no car in that generation, I thought of my dad walking around Seoul with one pair of worn rubber shoes and only his school uniform to wear. Then I suddenly thought of my life, and how I could get hot water in just seconds before getting cranky because I wasted all of it and how I complained that I don’t have enough shoes when I have four pairs along with outfits to go with them. I was amazed at the fact that after my ignorance and rebelling against them, they still loved me enough to tell me to go do some more workbook pages. I finally understood that working right now would pay off in the future.

I realized that my new respect for the authority of these two people came from their self-control and the ability to silence me. They silenced me not always physically by words, but with their experiences; humbling all the times I had ‘endured’. The effort they put in to support me amounts to so much and I know now that it is only by their love that keeps them from kicking me out. I want to make them proud, not from memorizing textbooks with the countless levels of algebra, but for all of the times they had scolded me and taught me the right way to live. I have no clue how much they do without telling me, but I definitely know that what I become in the future will branch off from their positive influence on me and I will make them proud by showing how much I learned from them.