My father was a humanitarian. He was dedicated to bringing out the best in people. He worked hard to educate and instill high moral standards in all his family—his students, colleagues, friends, relatives, as well as immediate blood relations. Any chance he had to impart his wisdom, he did.
As a research scientist, he conducted countless experiments always in pursuit of understanding the human condition. He was a mentor to several Ph.D. students. He was renowned among them for his toughness. Whenever he met one of them in a lab, a hallway, or even a social setting, he never failed to grill him or her with difficult questions on diverse topics such as pharmacology, research, politics, history, or music. However, as one of his former students wrote, “underneath his tough first impression, he had a fountain of compassion that overflowed to others.” Thus, he instilled in them a staunch, lifelong loyalty and taught them not only about science, but also about life.
Once, my father explained perhaps his most important life lesson this way. If you have musk (a precious substance traditionally used in Asia for perfumes and medicinal purposes) in your pocket, an aromatic fragrance will emanate unseen even if you try to hide it. Your personal qualities, character, and dignity are like this. You cannot hide them—they will naturally reveal themselves to others through your words and actions.
Knowledge and success are important; however, it is more important to use those resources to become an honorable human being who can contribute to society.
All through my life, I felt slightly disconnected from my father. My talents lay in languages and humanities rather than in the sciences. Furthermore, I was diagnosed with epilepsy in my early childhood, and although he understood the pharmacological aspects of the disorder, my experience as a person living with seizures is one that he could never have known.
However, I now find myself following my father’s footsteps. As I am Korean-American, I have the chance to give lessons in English language usage and pronunciation to many of my family members and close friends. Like my father, I am very strict and work with each student until he or she succeeds. Also, because of my personal connection with epilepsy, a very misunderstood disorder to this day, I am dedicated to spreading epilepsy awareness and advocating for people with seizures.
My father passed away three years ago. Not until then did I realize how much I internalized the values and principles in which he held such a strong, deep conviction, and by which he lived everyday. He was far more knowledgeable than I, and my talents differ greatly from his. However, as he did, I hope to make a difference in the lives of others and share with them a beautiful fragrance that emanates from my father’s gift, the precious musk of humanitarian character and values which I carry in my pocket.
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