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View facing East down the Han River from the 64 Building

I’ve been going through a really rough time the past couple of months. Long story, and none of your damn business anyway, so don’t ask.

Starting before all this ruckus though, I’ve always had an idea to do one good thing for another person each day. I don’t know about the karma of it, or if I believe in karma at all. I just do it because it feels good, and I hope that one day when I’m in need, someone will do something nice for me.

I’ll talk about 2 recent things I’ve done that have made me feel kinda fuzzy inside, and I hope they make you feel the same way. Yeah I know we’re supposed to go and do our good duties and not say a word, but I say scrap dat mess. If I keep it to myself, there’s absolutely zero chance that I will inspire someone else to do a nice deed. And that would mean that we have lost a good deed in the world because of this arcane idea of ‘doing nice and not telling anybody’. Not worth it.

This was a few weeks ago. I was at 왕십리 (Wangsimni) station. There was an old lady, must have been 75 or so, carrying 2 big bags. Now, ajummas generally have more strength in their fingernail than I do in my entire body. She was really struggling with her awkward bags though. Me, being the fit and able young bachelor I am, I decided to slowly… gently… making no sudden movements… reach for her bags to help her carry them up the stairs. I didn’t want her to think she was being mugged after all.

One she looked and realized what I was doing, her eyes lit up. The unpredictable nature of the ajumma made me almost jump back for fear of a wild, flying right hook. Not so. She gave a big, toothy (minus a few) grin and exclaimed what I could only make out as ‘what a nice foreigner boy!’

Whew.

So, I helped her carry her bags all the way up to the platform. I even took them up the stairs while she rode the elevator up. When I got them back to her at the platform, she shot me that toothy grin, and said to me (I’m sure I’m spelling this wrong) 금어워, which is, in the hierarchical language that is Korean, an informal way of saying ‘thank you’ to someone you’re friendly with. There are only 2 times I can remember hearing this said to me, and this is one of them. It filled my heard with warmth on that cold night to hear her say that to me, because that meant that she saw me as a friend.

We were awkwardly standing there, and she asked me where I was from. I replied 카나다 (Canada). Again her eyes lit up. I wasn’t an American! Even better! I told her I am from 나이아가라 폭포, Korean for Niagara Falls. She was thrilled. The subway came, but before we boarded and parted ways, she felt she had to offer me something. Here’s what she gave me:

yummy

This is extremely dry, cooked rice, with a few dried beans in it. I don’t know how they make it, but it seems like they just let the rice sit in a rice cooker for too long, and then scrape this stuff off the bottom. The result is an extremely crunchy, nearly tasteless melange of ricey goodness. I don’t take candy from strangers, so I haven’t touched it, and likely won’t. We boarded the subway and parted ways. Again she smiled her broken picket fence grin, mouthed the informal ‘thank you’, and I was off.

I hope I made her night more pleasant to know that in the craziness of such a huge city, there are still some people who aren’t all about themselves, and are willing to help others with no expectation for compensation.

———————————

My second story

Yesterday I was at a subway station that isn’t too complex, but it’s a transfer station, meaning there are two levels. They can get confusing to people who haven’t used them before.

I was exiting the turnstile when I saw a young Japanese guy, about my age, asking people for help. The Koreans ignored him (and who could blame them, the guy was speaking in Japanese). I caught his eye, but he immediately dismissed me as being unhelpful, because I am not Korean, so how could I know the intricacies of the subway system? Ohh my little skinny Japanese friend, ye of little faith.

He was trying to purchase a single-ride ticket from the new automated machines. He showed me his Japanese/English map, and showed me where he wanted to go. The problem was that he was trying to purchase a ticket from the machine that only gives refunds. I had a pretty loose schedule, so I decided to help him out. The look on his face was similar to this:

驚きおよび満足!

I walked him over to the appropriate machine, set up his ticket, showed him which direction to take the subway. He was thrilled that I was willing to help him, in the sea of Koreans who weren’t willing to lift a finger. He reached into his pocket and pulled out two Japanese strawberry-flavoured candies, mustered his best ‘thank you’, and was off.

I do my best to go a good deed every day for someone, anyone. From holding doors, to carrying heavy stuff for old people, even walking old ladies across the street when it’s slippery with snow.

I hope that this has inspired others to extend their hand in kindness to someone else today. The smallest thing, even holding a door open for someone carrying a heavy load… the meaning stretches far beyond simply making sure the person gets through the door unharmed, but also signifies that we should all do our best to share each others’ burdens, and help out whenever possible.

I don’t really believe in organized religion, but I do believe in spirituality. And if there is some sort of way to elect yourself to be a better person, then I think that setting a rule of doing one good deed, every day, will definitely do some good things for you.

And even not, when you help someone else, you get a feeling of sweet selflessness, which I feel is severely lacking in ‘today’s society’. Listen to me ramble… I’m 25 and speaking as if I know anything about society.

Just some food for thought. Hold a door or two open, not just for pretty ladies, but for those in need of assistance. I think if everyone adopted this rule, the world would be a better place.

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