I left work today realizing just how fortunate I am to be on the track towards a successful career. And on top of that, the fact that I actually enjoy my job makes it even better! It’s definitely been a long road.
I think about how I had to deal with rude and ignorant customers as a convenient store cashier during junior high, the strenuous labor working alongside my mother at the dry cleaners in high school, and then finally those dreaded double shifts waiting tables for three years during college. And yet I look at what I have today and realize that I haven’t obtained these things for myself. All of it has been provided by the hands of the good Lord, and the sacrifice of my parents. It’s truly amazing what a parent’s love for his/her child can accomplish. How much they are willing to sacrifice for the sake of their children. I must say without a doubt that is one of the most important lessons my parents have taught me. Love is sacrifice.
My parents immigrated to the U.S. in 1979. My mother came to this country first in January of that year, along with her parents and her siblings. She left behind her husband and her two daughters in search of a better life for all of us. Being away from your child even for a minute is the hardest thing to do as a mother. Not a day went by during our separation that she didn’t think of us, did not long to hold us in her arms and to sing us to sleep with sweet lullabies. She fought back tears and endured heartache every day, but she knew that in the long run, this would all be worth it.
My dad tells me that during this time while I was in Korea under his sole care, I would look up at all the airplanes that flew by and cry out, “Um-ma, Um-ma” (mother in Korean). My father would shake his head and tell me that it wasn’t my mother and I would burst into tears. My father and my aunts (his sisters) told me they had never seen an infant cry as much as I did during the time my mother was gone.
Finally, almost a year later in December of 1979, we were reunited with my mother at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport. My father likes to tell me how our reunion was delayed, because I had to use the bathroom and couldn’t hold it in. So the flight was delayed twenty minutes for its departure to the good old USA because of little moi and her weak bladder (oops!).
When I finally saw my mother, I immediately ran into her arms. I must have been the happiest little girl in the world at that very moment. But my sister (who was not even one at the time my mother left) didn’t recognize her and clung to my father refusing to go into my mother’s arms. I can’t imagine the heartache my mother must have felt when her own child didn’t recognize her. Even as my mother retold the story to us, she choked with emotion recalling the alienation she sensed at that moment. What a sacrifice she made. But a child never forgets the womb from which she was conceived and in no time at all, my sister was Mom’s little baby girl again. My mother is my role model of strength and courage.
My parents had heard such wonderful stories about life in America. But life wasn’t wonderful in the beginning. My grandparents, two uncles, my aunt, and my parents all lived together in a small apartment in Maryland. They could hardly speak the native language. They had no money to their name. They were starting off from scratch. They began as cashiers at local convenient stores, worked in dry cleaners, and basically took whatever job they could get. Here they were, educated and skilled, yet working these blue-collar jobs in the hopes that one day their children wouldn’t have to.
My parents both worked long hours. We hardly saw them and soon found ourselves becoming “latch-key” kids. My sister, brother, and I basically grew up taking care of ourselves. My father was also attending seminary at the same time studying to be a pastor, which I think ended up being one of the greatest sacrifices he made. There’s no money in ministry. No glory. Very little benefits. But I learned quickly that the treasures on Earth fade away just as quickly as the sun rises and the sun sets. My father saw the eternal reward and was willing to sacrifice everything he had for it… including a comfortable life for himself and his family.
I find myself awestruck at how my father even raised a family of five on his salary. I make more than double what he ever made as a pastor. And I’m having a hard enough time managing my finances as a single person, much less raising a family. Yet my father knew this was his calling in life and he knew it would not be an easy road for any of us. My father is my role model of sacrifice and incredible faith.
My sister and I had to work our way through college, studying diligently when we weren’t working odd jobs to pay off our tuition and rent. Though those years were hard and we found ourselves ready to give up at certain points of our college career, we made it through. But I remember the moments where I felt I just couldn’t go on living like this. I remember vividly one night during my sophomore year in college when I came home after a horrible night at the restaurant and found myself weeping quietly in the corner of my room (hoping my roommates wouldn’t hear). I stayed there the rest of the night, wishing with all my heart that my life were different. Yet it was the hope and dreams of something better down the road that got me through those hard days.
Although my parents couldn’t give us much in terms of material things, they gave us so much more. My sister, brother, and I have a deep appreciation and understanding of hard work and sacrifice. Having experienced the hardships ourselves, we are only that much more grateful for what our parents did for us. The chance they took to go to a different country where everything was foreign to them so that they could give their children a better life than they had known for themselves. To sacrifice their own dreams and ambitions so that we could see ours come true. Now as college graduates with promising careers, my parents proudly see that their sacrifice was well worth it. Mere words cannot say thank you enough.