Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Stealing the Hearts of the Grandparents

Many ethnic parishes still exist in the States, and the Korean parish would be one of the more recent. The Korean pastor of one of them recounts, in the Korean Catholic Digest, what he heard about the trip of Sarah and Taihyoun, who spent their summer vacation with their grandparents in Korea.

There are  many Korean children in the States who not only speak English perfectly and obey their parents, but also speak Korean fluently. When they speak among themselves, they use English; when they speak to their pastor it's in Korean, as a sign of respect. Sarah, a beautiful child, and Taihyoun, mischievous but likeable, are two such children. Their parents are exemplary parishioners, and the mother a paragon of what charm is meant to mean, said the pastor.

During the children's stay in Korea, something very unexpected happened. The children "stole the hearts of their grandparents," was the way the pastor put it.  They would be constantly holding on to the apron strings of the grandmother, he was told, and going wherever  she went. And in the evening they massaged the aching legs and arms of the grandfather. Although a special room was prepared for them, they preferred to sleep with the grandparents. He was surprised to hear this since Korean children usually shun older people because of the body odor. But Sarah and Taihyoun were different, they wanted to be near their grandparents at all times.

Hearing that the children spoke Korean, even though born and raised in the States, made the pastor feel proud of being Korean. Sarah remembered some of the meals her grandmother had prepared during previous trips and begged her to prepare them, which she always did with great joy.

When it came time for the children to return to the States, the grandparents wondered how they would get along without them. Hugging the children and crying, it seemed as if the whole village were joining the grandparents as they shed tears on the departure of the children. Soon after, the grandfather called his son and  thanked him for raising such wonderful children. And not much later the father received a letter from the brother of his wife, a teacher, who explained that he tried to inculcate in his students some of the traits he saw in the children, but with little success. Having seen the way the children behaved with their grandparents and feeling embarrassed at his own failure as a teacher, he asked in his letter how they had managed to raise such wonderful children.

The children, of course, had no idea of the impression they were making on the grandparents and villagers. Just looking at their faces, the brother-in-law said, you knew they had no idea why they were being praised. They were simply enjoying themselves, eating and playing and just being themselves, oblivious of the effect they were having on others. A state of mind, perhaps, that more of us should incorporate into our daily lives.

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