I’m tired, I’m struggling, and the brokenness, dirtiness, and sloppiness of things is starting to get to me…
I spent hours organizing a closet today, and though I was enjoying myself (w/IHOP’s Prayer Room playing in the background on my macbook and two of the guys helping me w/the more difficult tasks of lifting boxes and disposing of dead insects), something began to catch my attention and bother me…I couldn’t put my finger on it until I flipped to the back of one of the notepads I was scanning for usable, clean paper. It was something so small, but it sort of became my tipping point for the day.
What it was was simply scribbled writing on the last “page” of the notepad – the actual cardboard backing. It says “A small one-eyed pop star sings a tune” and the opposite side shows a neat but amateur drawing of just that, a small, one-eyed pop star singing notes. The thing that bothered me about it was that I don’t have any memories of ever seeing writing on the cardboard backing of a notepad before. Seriously, never have I ever. Because we never do that. Because the kinds of people I have grown up with and the kind of person I am, we never even get to the end of notepads since we have ten other ones lying around. We forget what we already have and we go and buy a pack of five more, because buying four more was a dollar cheaper than buying three separate ones.
What’s wrong w/that? Well, nothing on the surface. It’s still the smart thing to do if a person’s using notepads regularly. What got me was that I began to realize that nothing seems to be wasted here (my Americorps / TMC site, SY), because there isn’t enough resource to begin with. People use what they are given, such as an out of context black and teal notepad that says “Bridal Shower” on the letterhead, because there isn’t money to go buy a set of regular yellow or white notepads. You use what you are given.
This wouldn’t have bothered me so much if I were in Mexico, Khon Kaen (Thailand), or China…but I’m having a hard time because we’re in the States. We’re in LA. We’re in So Cal… the economic disparity is really getting to me, and I just don’t know how to emotionally process it yet. I guess by writing about it, at least I’m putting words to my feelings, albeit poorly.
I guess I could call what I’m feeling a little bit of “Korean person’s guilt,” if I contextualize the idea of “white man’s guilt” for a Korean American person living in Koreatown where the Koreans rule and Latinos slave away. I’m probably romanticizing the poverty and struggle of Latinos (to an extent) and unfairly judging my own community more harshly (though I’m aware of how they struggle to make their livings as well), but I just have a hard time w/my own privilege and that of my ethnic community.
I’m hoping this will become a more processed, channeled, and focused feeling/thought, but for now… it bothers me that I’m aware of Korean churches having too many notepads, and my “Latino” program having too few, even for children and youth who are creative and intelligent enough to think up a one-eyed pop star who is singing, and talented enough to draw it clearly on a notepad.
I told my mom, and she said that the difference between Koreans and Latinos is that Koreans are accustomed and acculturated to give more than a few dollars in offering every Sunday at church, so Korean churches seem richer. But I don’t know. Generalizations are always hard and dangerous, and an understanding of the larger picture (taking into account history, politics, and sociology) makes it even more difficult to justify this economic disparity by simply attributing it to cultural differences.
Ah, I don’t know. I just know I’m tired, and it felt good to worship, pray, read Scripture together, and cry.
If I had a superpower today, it would be the power to show Christians (Korean ones in particular) why they should be pouring their financial resources into the neighborhoods and communities that they are making money from and in.
We are blessed to be a blessing, ya’ll. Not just to ourselves and those we love, but those we don’t know and cannot call friend, yet.