I was fully prepared for the trip to Korea with lots of excitement and anticipation of seeing what was in store for us. This time around however, it was not only physically painful but emotionally as well. It took me to a whole new level of feeling pain for others. Soon after we arrived, I realized that I was not going to be accepted into their adult world so easily. Everything was different there. I was surprised to see that I was having such a hard time adjusting to Korea this time around. I’m Korean and I’ve already visited Korea few times before so I just assumed I would fit into the culture with no trouble. I was wrong. Maybe it was because this time being more about business than pleasure, I quickly realized that Koreans think very differently than what I am used to. For one, they are not very accommodating to your needs if you don’t meet a certain social-economic status. I’m not just talking about financial status but it could be as small thing as your age or (this is funny but…) whether your skin isn’t white enough.
I went to this trip with a simple heart; to honestly love and pay forward the blessings I’ve received from people around me. But I was reminded quickly that life or should I say grown-ups are not that always simple minded. I wish we were more like innocent kids. They say what they mean and they do exactly what they say they are going to do. That’s why I enjoy being around kids. I don’t like nor understand going around the bushes drama. But I guess, as we get older, we let our egos get in the way. So by giving subtle hints, we are secretly hoping that they will figure out our needs. As much as I want to believe that I’m good at reading people, I am very quick to shut down and put my guard up when I’m asked to play guessing games. However, I found myself in many situations playing this very game in Korea and I had to push myself to stay in the game. My competitive side quickly came out so I was determined to play it well. Especially in this case, the reward of winning was too great. But sadly, I’m not sure if I came out as the winner and I’ve been struggling with that ever since. Not necessarily about winning because after all, it wasn’t a soccer game or foursquare but rather, I feel like I’ve failed all the little kids I’ve spent my time with during the visits.
Andy and I along with our BSF volunteer Eunjin in Korea visited three orphanages and Baby Box. Each place had their own essence. Of course when you compare all of them, one will stick out of having more and better equipped. What I saw this time around was far better than what I experienced ten plus years ago. Having said that, there were still some heart breaking moments too. One incident that I will never forget is a boy about Ivan’s age following Andy and me around trying to make a good impression. The only words of English he knew was “hi” and “bye” but with that, he did all he can in trying to keep me interested in a conversation. He asked our volunteer Eunjin if we were there to adopt one of them. Oh, how I wish it were that simple. I feel lame and sometimes feel like this is an easy way out, but honestly all I can do at this time for him is sincerely pray that God will guide his life and His hands will be always on him.
No matter how well equipped the facilities were and how nice the staffs were, I was not comforted knowing that kids will have to live in the same facility for a long time if not forever. Every time I saw orphans, some in beds or in wheel chairs, a group of little tiny baby’s just laying around on the floor seeking attention, and little adorable boys running around fighting over one tiny toy car, I must say I was overwhelmed with sadness. I didn’t understand why they had to be the ones living there. Few times I couldn’t control my own emotions and I had to step away. So many questions of “why” are still going through my mind and my heart continues to ache every time I think about them. I’m not sure if I’ll ever forget the faces that I saw.
After I came back from Korea, I didn’t allow myself to think about the trip. It was too raw and painful to think about all the little faces. But honestly, I felt like the task for me to help all of them was too big to handle. Also my responsibilities waiting for me here at home didn’t give me any chance to adjust or even catch my breath. It just kicked my butt really hard. So it was easier for me to just not think about the trip. I didn’t even dare to try to prepare for the next step. Now that I’ve rested and had some time to let everything settle a bit, I’m ready to put my one foot forward and take the next step, albeit a very small baby step.
With every visit, each facility requested some form of help from BSF and of course my initial reaction was YES, of course, we would love to help you. How I wish I could do whatever is in my heart. But after discussing our situation and coming back to my reality, I realized that I can’t just drop everything and forget about my responsibilities here at home. For me to help with all, will require me to travel to Korea more often than I can right now. So we realized with my limitations and considering my responsibilities at home, it would be hard for us at this time to say yes to everyone.
So for now, BSF has made the hard decision to only go with helping with single moms with child with special needs. We met this one single mom through Baby Box and there was an instant connection between her daughter and me. This special lady at a young age chose to raise her baby girl with special needs on her own. When everyone around her world demanded her to abandon her baby, she fought hard to be her little girl’s mom. The baby girl has a full set of black rock star hair that falls all over the place with beautiful big brown eyes. She’s only three months old but she had a lot to say. I can’t share too many details about their circumstances because her mom asked for their privacy but what I can tell you is that BSF has made the commitment to help her raise her baby girl. She will need her second heart surgery soon but she doesn’t have insurance so we understand that she will need all the financial help she can get. Plus, the mom has no real income to support themselves and she’s not qualified for any welfare, which adds to their financial hardship. Another reason is a personal one; I want to have a relationship with them and be part of their lives. She is only 23 years old and when I had AJ, I was also only 23. If I had one person who could of guided me or told me that everything was going to be okay and that they would stand by me and my son, I know for sure that I would of embraced and enjoyed being AJ’s mom a little more rather than living in fear for the first few years of AJ’s life. BSF board and I are committed in helping this family; we will help them get through these hard and lonely times. We are in the process of adding on more single moms with children with special needs to this new program.
If you would like to hear more about my visit to the orphanages and how you can help them, please send me a message. They have so many needs and I know they would appreciate any donation or help they can receive. They asked for their privacy so I can’t put too much on the Internet.