The love of a parent for his/her child is one that is unconditional, that has no boundaries. This is something that I’ve learned from my parents, as they worked their hardest to provide for myself and my brother.
My father grew up in the aftermath of the Korean War and told us stories of being hungry most of the time, and selling corncakes or Korean pastries on the streets of Seoul, Korea to the passerbys who had a few cents to spare. Even so, he always told these stories in a jovial manner, adding a joke or two, and laughing about how he used to sometimes beat all the other kids in sales. He would always sandwich these stories with anecdotes about how his lack of money didn’t affect his popularity with the girls in his class. My dad. The positive salesman.
He came to America in the 1970’s in search of the American dream, which is what so many others have done; it’s that feeling of wanting to make something of yourself in the U.S.A even with about ten bucks in your pocket. He worked many jobs from being a pizza delivery man, cashier, until saving enough to start his own business; an urban clothing store in Philadelphia.
I remember having to go to the store on Saturdays and seeing people hurl insults at my father, usually racist, but he never became embittered. As my blood boiled at the powerlessness of my 10 year old body, my father would grab my hand and say, “You have to be the bigger person.” Why were people so mean and racist? I didn’t understand.
My father always found a way to make a joke about it, and eventually a lot of our customers who had insulted him, became regular customers. When Cavariccis were the hottest new clothing items, my Dad over-nighted delivery of them from Los Angeles to Philly, and then once the store opened the next day; he’d make sure that our regular customers were rocking the new style.
I’ve always marveled at people who see the glass as half-full, never complain, and just work hard with a smile on their faces. I’m definitely someone who makes an effort but then, I’ll do the opposite. But my father never did.
In middle school, he took me to get my ears pierced (much to my mother’s dismay) to the Jersey shore. We went and got greasy Boardwalk fries, Rita’s water ice, and attempted to go in the water, but the water was a murky brown, so I said “no.” He spoke of the importance of being a good person, having a relationship with God, working hard, the importance of family, and also that money was not the reason for living. Considering we live in a world where money seems to rule everything, I always remembered this.
As a daughter of immigrants, I hold their dreams on my back. It’s a desire to pay them back for all they’ve suffered to give me a chance to follow my own dreams. And the fact that my father has never grown bitter or jaded makes me realize how much I need to grow. Change. Give Back. Inspire.
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