Thursday, September 30, 2021

A Life in Service to Others


Last week, the parish held a non-face-to-face Catholic lecture after a long absence. The pastor of the parish wrote about the experience in the Catholic Times Weekly Eyes of the Believer column. He hesitated, thinking that it would be a foolish decision to hold a parish event in a situation where all gatherings other than Mass were banned or suspended due to Corona 19, but in the end, fortunately good results were achieved.

Maybe it was because of the interest of believers in the lecturer invited for the event: Dr. Kim Yong-min (Peter), a relief activist for Doctors Without Borders, who was introduced to the readers in the Seoul Diocesan Bulletin recently. When the pastor read his book  "Relief Doctor Challenged By National Borders" (2019), the pastor felt that he was an extraordinary person who did not lead an ordinary life, so he looked forward to his lecture.
Recalling his childhood: He was the youngest in a poor family, couldn't make his own choices, confessing that if his will was 1% at every fork in life, the remaining 99% was living according to God's will and boasting of his 'tinker life' (one who fills in for others).
Freshly graduating from medical school, he volunteered to work in Sorokdo, (An island, in Korea, where sufferers from  Hansen's disease (leprosy), were exiled by a society that  stigmatized the illness.)  He waited for a year before giving up. Then, one day, he was assigned to fill a void in a specialist that suddenly occurred. 

Working on Sorokdo, he learns about the beautiful way so many work in love of neighbors, such as Sisters Marianne and Margaret, who cared for the abandoned. He decided to live a life of 'helping others rather than himself' after 10 years of apathy he returned to his religious life and chose orthopedic surgery as his major to help leprosy patients.

Although he has been immersed in nurturing juniors for a long time as a professor at the university's medical school, he kept in his heart the desire for a life of helping others. He applied to a relief team to help Haiti, which had suffered a devastating disaster in the 2010 earthquake, and even though it was not feasible, an unexpected contact came just before departure. He says he found out it was because they couldn't find an orthopedic surgeon. 

As a 'tinker' doctor, filling the vacancy of others and taking on the tasks that others were reluctant to do, he announced his retirement in 2018, six years left before retirement age and became a 'Doctors Without Borders' relief activist, traveling to and from the Gaza Strip, Palestine and remote Africa taking care of  patients.
Listening to his lectures, you can feel how big the difference in life is between those who realize their identity and mission and those who do not. It is very important that he knows who he is. Only a person who properly knows his identity can realize his life's mission and put it properly into practice.
Martin Schleske, world-renowned violin maker, author of Song of the Spruce (2013) said: "We can be the artists of our lives or we can be the consumers. Consumers of life do not need to realize anything in life. They simply leave their lives to chance. But the artist of life is concerned with the inner law of beauty,"  subtly urging the reader to choose. 
Living as a 'consumer of life' is choosing a familiar and comfortable life rather than an unfamiliar and inconvenient life, and in such a life, you can meet the standards of the world without asking questions about who you are, what you are doing, and why you are doing it. It will be a passive existence that follows. On the other hand, an 'artist of life' is a person who clearly recognizes his identity and mission and leads his life actively and creatively by balancing the familiar and stable as well as the unfamiliar and uncomfortable harmoniously for that mission. 
Brother Yong-min Kim (Peter), is a 'tinker doctor', an 'artist of life'. You will not be happy if your life is always compared to others. When you become an independent being who knows what your own desires are, you will be freed from the endless cycle of desire and you will be able to become an artist of life rather than a consumer of life. It will not end with self-satisfaction, but will be completed when it is for the happiness of others.
In the end, the artist of life will be valued in the love of neighbor. We all need to be like Dr. Kim,
artists of life.

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