This I Believe

Christina - Rancho Palos Verdes, California
Entered on October 19, 2006

I remember feeling my eyes tighten – fighting with all their might not to blink. Through those blurry pools flooded precariously with tears, I slowly turned away from the little girls in my kindergarten class who had just informed me that I wouldn’t be able to read simply because my eyes were too dark.

When I reported the bad news to my parents, who had, then, recently immigrated to Los Angeles from South Korea, they were initially enraged. This was not the America they left their homeland for. But they did nothing. Not even a note to the teacher. They told me to swallow it and forgive. It turns out, forgiveness healed me faster than spite, hate or revenge ever could. I remember going home to practice reading, determined to place in the fastest reading group, enriched with a new sense of purpose – to prove there is light behind these dark eyes.

My belief is in a fundamental, yet oft-overlooked tenet of every human life – forgiveness. It may just be the only antidote for surviving this melting pot’s blurry mixture with forward-minded clarity.

Growing up, my grandfather used to tell me, “you’re not Korean, Christina, you are an American.” I remember feeling hurt the first time he told me this. I wanted to be Korean – to live out my identity without too many distinctive layers or complications. Later, though, I realized how much my grandfather regarded this status as an American in the highest respect. It was the ultimate compliment – the most precious gift he could give.

Being a first generation immigrant in California during the 80’s, meant living as a “have-not” in the world of “have-everythings”. My grandparents left their respective high ranking jobs in the navy and business back in Korea, and willingly – even, happily – traded them for washing cars and shoe repair here in LA. In those times, they had to forgive a lot of injustices and indiscrete remarks, but forgiveness was easier because they were motivated by the opportunity they were earning for their children, and because they were so thankful to live here in America. They forgave the little things, mindful of their thankfulness for the bigger things in life. They never looked back once they reached this famed land of opportunity. The gratefulness ingrained in their hearts has been passed down to me like a priceless family heirloom.

It’s not easy to let go. It’s our nature to cling, consciously or not, to our status as victims. It is only through the ability to understand the reason behind the wrong, the acknowledgement of our remaining blessings, and the readiness to accept our place in an imperfect world, that we can focus our eyes in the proper perspective in preparation to move on.

Forgiveness is more important than ever – in this generation wrought with misunderstandings, broken buildings, and clashing colors. It is with this hope of reconciliation that brown eyes everywhere shine a little brighter.