Friday, July 17, 2009

Thank God for my Fellowship Group!

I attended my Fellowship group yesterday. It's a small group, about 5-10 people show up every week. Usually, we have weekly meetings and discuss passages from the Bible. Afterwards, we have prayer requests and talk. And let me tell you something, its probably the best bunch of friends and people I've been around, since I've been back to NY. I mean, we're all older folks, I'm one of the youngest at 29, and there's a sense that we're all friends. It's not those kind of "friendships" or groups with people that, well, you know. (Trust me, I've recently been in a group like "that". It's kinda sad, really. Especially, when its more about hurting each other, avoiding communication, and defriending people over facebook, than what it should be - ironing out differences, making things right and working together for common goals. And I'm going to state this for the record, I'm no saint, either. I had a part in whatever happened.) So, going back to my Fellowship group, which I've come to appreciate a lot more now. Maybe its the fact that we truly value each other as human beings. Or maybe its the fact that we're all Christians. Or maybe its the fact that we're all New Yorkers and can appreciate "real" people. My guess? Its all of the above and that we're in our 30's.

Also, when I recently did a WNYC Public radio program, I heard from the members of the fellowship group about my "talk". They were very supportive and took me aside for nearly 2 hours to discuss my life. How could you not be appreciative of that gesture? And when it came time for prayer requests yesterday, I opened up about my parents and yet, again was pulled aside to discuss my life. The host, Jerome, told me that I had this higher journey, fighting for so many people, and that I needed to really think about what God wanted me to do. I responded that I knew I had to represent them - the fellowship group - as well, because they were always watching me. :) And in a year, or 2, or 3, when its all said and done, maybe it was this group - and not the other one - which enabled me to reach my highest potential. They were always so supportive, and understanding. They weren't the most connected, well-educated, and "famous", but at least they always believed in the good in people, especially and including the "goodness" in me. :D

Now that I think of it, does anyone remember the movie Invincible? It came out in 2006. Well, it was about a bartender, teacher, and an average fan who tried out for the Philadelphia Eagles squad in the 70's. Dick Vermeil had become the new HC and wanted to shake things up for the team. They were a hapless bunch and he had this novel idea of open tryouts. So Vince Papale, against all odds, made the team. He overcame the obstacles of his wife leaving him, RIGHT AFTER he was fired from his part-time teaching job. Also his wife, took everything (furniture, etc) when she left him, leaving him a cold note saying "Vince, you're never going to make any money, you're never be successful and you're never going to do anything in life." Actually, this note serves as motivation to Vince Papale until the beginning of the regular NFL season, which then he rips up. But its what happens in training camp, when he's trying to make the team, that I'll always remember.

As he trains and practices with the Eagles veterans during the summer, he's often alone and isolated. Nobody likes him and he's often cheap shotted, and hit harder than the other players. No one seems to care about this "guy" who comes from the streets. And all he wants to do is make the team. (But if he makes it, then someone has to go, which is the constant source of friction and hatred/jealously among his teammates.) So can he make the team? He's 30. He has no college football experience. He isn't even the best Wide Receiver on the team. But he's out there everyday, chugging along. And as he continues to play football, others on the team sneak into his locker and try to dig up dirt. They eventually find the note that his ex-wife left him. Then, one day in practice the linebacker brings it up.

Scene: After he picks up and tackles Papale, the LB says: She was right old man. You ain't going nowhere!

Papale: (gets up, and fights him)

Assistant HC: Break it up. (looks at Papale in disgust. He doesn't like Vince either. The team then runs to the end of the field. Vince is standing, exhausted.)

Then, another player comes over and gives a mocking gesture to Vince. He continues to stand there. The crowd who saw the whole thing, stands up and cheers for him.

And thats one of my favorite scenes from the movie. Do you know how appreciative Vince was of that crowd who stood up and cheered for him? That right there, probably kept him going. And its the same feeling I get when my fellowship group does the same for me. Even when the rest of my "teammates" can't stand me.

Eventually, Vermeil chooses Vince over the veteran WR, citing "character". There's that word again!? And maybe its character, and not just talent which helps one succeed in life. But it helps, I believe, when you have a great support group and fans who cheer you on...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Exhausted or tireless worker?

Lately, I've been exhausted. I've been a step (or 2) slower, taking more breaks and sleeping earlier (gasp!) which is unheard of for me. I think the 7 days of work, 365 days a year could be the source of my sheer exhaustion. But then again, I've been used to it for years, why all of a sudden would it bother me now? Hmmm, so maybe its the culmination of all those years. But when your parents work 7 days and don't take any breaks, you NEED to do the same thing. Maybe even do more work, as you "watch" over them and correct their mistakes.

However, as I think about what I do and why I do it. I'm always reminded by a conversation I had recently. Its a conversation that always gives me hope and joy. And you wouldn't guess who it came from. So let me explain - last month I had traveled to Washington, DC for a Dream Act Graduation Ceremony. At the end of the trip, I stopped by the Supreme Court building, which was a pleasant surprise considering ALL that we had to do. So I had taken some pictures of the building and of my favorite justice - Thurgood Marshall. As I left, a nice Indian couple (in their 50's) who saw me take pictures in my black graduation gown (which I hope to trade in for the real black robe, one day), asked me a couple of questions. We were right in front of the elevator, when they asked, "What are you studying? What do you want to be?"

I replied, "I want to study law, and I hope to be here, one day."

Their response, "I hope you can make it here one day too. It would be nice to see someone like you here."

Me: "Yeah, really? (A brief pause) Maybe I can be the first Asian-American on the bench. And I hope God can make it happen for me, one day."

Them: "Yeah, I hope that it happens for you. You can be that great judge, who does good work. You can do a lot here. Good luck!"

Then we went our separate ways, and I just thought, "Wow, they had all this support and they didn't even know me." For them to have the belief that I could do it, was just amazing. And I knew if I could ever do it, I would like to personally thank them. That was one of those random conversations you never forget. So supportive, and so hopeful. And honestly, it was a breath of fresh air to what I had been hearing - Jong-Min, you're too old, you're not educated enough, the schools you want to go to are highly competitive, you don't have enough at stake (loosely translated: you don't have a book deal or something like that, which makes you stand out.) With thoughts like that, why would I ever think I could be something great? And it just made me furious to even hear those thoughts from a "friend". But, I knew how hard I worked for my parents, and the sacrifices and commitment I've made to running their family business and their 2 private apartments. Not to mention, "watching" over them and making sure they were "Ok". And when it came to studying, I've worked to get back into that as well. Its been tough, after 6 years of not studying, but its something I had to do. That's why I worked so hard - not to prove those people wrong - but to have that same work ethic, which I NEEDED, if I ever wanted to be on the High Bench.

And my last response to the couple was "Thank you. I hope to do great work here too."

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Person of High Character

As the day finally unwinds, I called a good friend of mine. Actually, he's my best friend's father. I call him "Uncle" Tom. Obviously, we aren't blood related, but there exists a friendship between us that we can say we're "family-related". And let me tell you something else, he's a person of high character. I think it takes the knowledge, the determination, the maturity/age (he's 51), and the heart to be that kind of person. And whenever, I had a problem with anything - mortgage, parents, siblings, tenants, other people, etc - I would call him up and ask him for his advice. He was never too busy, and never got angry when I called him early/late and often. And with "Uncle" Tom, I just thought this is what true friendships should be like. Also, when you have problems, what should you do? First, pray. Second, find your friends and talk it out. And of course, most of us are either too busy to talk and/or forget to call back. Not this guy. He wanted to help me and point me in the right direction. I mean, think about it. What did I really have to offer this guy? He's not my father and I don't work for him. I don't make any money for him and he doesn't really need me for anything. Exactly, which is my point. That's what a person of high character is. He helps those who needs his help. He extends himself to those less fortunate. He makes the world a better place by giving, not taking. And I can't say enough about the work he does. He's a millionaire, and yet last year built a halfway house for the poor, struggling and drug addicted women (and their children) in Nashville, TN.

So as I called him today, I asked about his son (my best friend). And of course, we talked for about 5 minutes. He had a gathering with his very large extended family this 4th of July. Then, he asked me, "How come you didn't come by?" I replied, "Well, I thought your son wasn't coming home from Afghanistan. I think he didn't tell me, what exactly what he was doing." But its all good though, he knows the work I do for my parents and understands the responsibilities that my "job" demands. Although, I might add, he thinks I can do much more than that. But who doesn't think that!? However, more importantly, as I've thought about our friendship over the years, I'm hoping that he too thinks I am a person (or student) of high character and that's why we've become good, maybe even great friends.

Side note: (The blurb/article below was actually the inspiration for this blog. With the Lakers on the verge of their 17th NBA Championship, more than a month ago, Phil Jackson talked about his thoughts on Derek Fisher.)

Coaching His Way, and It Works - NY Times.

June 12, 2009, after the NBA Finals, Game 4

In the moments after what looked like a Lakers miracle, someone asked Coach Phil Jackson to describe what has kept Derek Fisher gainfully employed as his starting guard, despite flaws that for so many others would forever be fatal.

Too old, at 34. Too small, at 6-foot-1. Too slow and stumpy at 200 pounds.

Jackson nodded slightly, an eyebrow rising, his mouth forming his trademark half-grin.

“Well, it’s character,” Jackson said. “We’ve always said that character has got to be in players if they’re going to be great players. You can’t just draft it. It’s not just about talent, it’s about character, and he’s a person of high character.”

Friday, July 3, 2009

Studying and the like....

Today, from 8-9pm, I was studying outside the store. It was a nice sunny day and the sun was still out til about 8:30pm. Anyway, as I was sitting, reading, and studying for the LSAT about 5 friends stopped by and asked, "What are you studying?" They were a couple with a 3 year old son, a former coworker from the pizzeria I used to work at, 2 customers who play lottery everyday, and another customer with a 12 year old daughter. I perhaps, studied for about 5 minutes - if that - before getting interrupted each time and then having to have another 5 minute conversation with every one of them. So anyway, I told them I was studying for the LSAT and was aiming to be a judge. They were all impressed and seemed supportive of my goals. And you know what? As strange as it may have seemed, I welcomed the interruptions. As I've gotten older and with the culture and people of New York, I've come to realize the importance of small talk and the genuine little "friendships" that you form here. Its as if we could talk openly and honestly to each other. Or maybe its the fact that we're all older and can be friendly (or friends) to everyone. So what's there to hide, really, when you're all friends?

But as I was having ALL these conversations, I realized that my goal to be a judge was for them too. What does that mean? I wanted to help and inspire them as well. I knew how supportive they were of my goals and dreams. How else could I ever repay them? I think the only way I could ever do that was to be My Dream. And when I achieve that, then maybe I can give back to others (and to society). So as they were giving me their supportive thoughts and opinions, I just thought I now have a "responsibility" to go out and repay them back for their support, by being this great Justice - one day.