Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Yoonwoo Lee

I give something many volunteers cannot — the gift of being a big brother to third grader Yoo Sangho.

Sangho doesn’t really like school, but he studies a lot. Eternally upbeat, he enjoys his life, as simple as it is. He likes to watch TV. He’s chubby but healthy. He has a bowl cut with hair trimmed to a similar length around the head and a buzz cut on the sides. This adds to his cute, boyish look. He has small eyes. I wouldn’t call him attractive, but he’s kind of cute because of his baby fat. He looks forward to meeting me when I visit.

He lives with his grandmother, Choi Sun Duk. It’s just those two in the home. She is short, about average height for women in Korea, with the hairstyle a lot of grandmas have — curly and short. She has a lot of wrinkles, and she only smiles when Sangho is happy or gets good grades. The rest of the time, she seems really sad.

They are kind of my second family through a volunteer club I belong to named Nanoom Korea. The name is Korean for “sharing.” We take necessities like food and clothing to the poor and elderly like Choi Sun Duk and Yoo Sangho. But, our real influence is in the personal connections we make with the children of those we visit. It’s hard to measure the impact of what I do, as it may take decades to see if the seeds of kindness I planted take root and grow.

I tend to go every two weeks or once a week if I have time. I like helping Sangho. It’s more fun than the other childless households. Of all the families we help, he is the only child. I spend time with Yoo Sangho because I think he’s more likely to work harder when he grows up because he doesn’t have wealth, and he has experienced the difficulties first-hand at a young age.

This makes helping him both challenging and rewarding. Helping him gives me the satisfaction of knowing I’ve made a difference. I wake up at 7 a.m on a Saturday and ride a taxi for an hour to help him with his English and to entertain him.

My peers are sleeping while I’m making a difference, and I feel proud of myself for helping.

When I can be there for him to tell him how to be and to support and encourage him, I give him something special. I give him family. I don’t know what happened to his mother. His grandmother can only do what a mother or grandma would do. I give Yoo Sangho something most volunteers cannot — the attention of a big brother. Yoo Sangho is the future. While it might not seem like a lot, the effort and attention members of Nanoom Korea give the children is very special and can change the direction of his life — making him a productive citizen or a troubled teenager. That is invaluable.

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