Red and Yellow, Black and White

This past spring semester, I took an African American history class. I have to admit, history has long been my most dreaded subject in school, but this class became my favorite. One of the books we read was Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns. In this (very well-written) book, Wilkerson documents the lives of three individuals who were part of the Great Migration. Through the reading of this book, watching movies (42: A Jackie Robinson StoryBridge to FreedomThe HelpGlory12 Years a Slaveand Freedom Summer), and discussing in class, history (particularly that of African Americans) became to me the exploration of the stories of real people and understand things from their perspectives within their contexts. I think it has definitely made me more empathetic and better at giving individuals the benefit of the doubt — because I really don’t know everything.

One of the themes that constantly came up in my mind throughout this class was the dehumanization of people in history. Even the [smaller] things that occurred in everyday life, particularly in how people treated each other, whether black or white, demonstrate dehumanization. To be honest, everyday life is where those kinds of mentalities are developed and nurtured — or prevented and squashed. Where dehumanization shows its ugly face to all the world to see is in the bombings and the shootings, as the whole nation — and probably world — saw in the news regarding Charleston, SC, this week.

I looked up the accused shooter, Dylann Roof, because I wanted to learn more about him and what his motives were. I found a site that displays a white supremacist document that Dylann Roof allegedly wrote. It looks to me like he actually did know a lot and was pretty aware of race history. I think where he went wrong was really in his assumptions. I think he assumed that everything revolves around the white race. I think he assumed that people, no matter what color, don’t have individual backgrounds and circumstances to deal with and grow from. I think he didn’t take into account that you really need to be able to see things from another person’s perspective before you can claim to understand him or her. And, most of all, I definitely think that he dehumanized people of the non-white races.

I think that if you really get to know a person and where he or she comes from, it is much more possible for you to see that person as human. When you treat someone as no human should be treated, you not only dehumanize that person; you dehumanize yourself. You stoop lower than any human should stoop, just to treat someone lower than any human should be treated. When you cannot act in love, you do not act as a human. Humans were made to love. Love is what each of us (knowingly or unknowingly) lives for. It is what drives each of us. And this (although broad) is the only proper solution to this mess that we have created. It is the only solution that will change things for the better and for the long run. This is why the victims’ families have chosen to love and forgive the murderer of their loved ones.

This Love goes completely against our human nature — because we are sinful by nature. And this is why we must make the conscious decision to love in each and every minute of every day of our lives. It is obviously not the easy or default choice. It is something that we have to work for — all the time. It isn’t something that we can do on autopilot, although it does become more natural to partake in as we do more frequently. But love is always the hard choice that we have to make between what our sinful nature wants and what we know deep down is the better and wiser choice. Love or the absence of it is truly at the core of everything that we do.

So what do we do? Well, I’m not an expert at love, or at anything for that matter. But what does love do?

  • Love looks out for others and protects others. It may just mean coming alongside someone and being with him or her.
  • Love serves. And seeks to serve.
  • Love delights. Love finds joy in every situation. Joy is not the emotion of happiness, but rather a deeper spiritual state that is deeply rooted in love, faith, and hope. (I realize that’s extremely circular. What do you think defines joy?)
  • Love reconciles. Love forgives and always seeks reconciliation. It may mean confrontation. Or it may not even involve interacting with a person again. But love reconciles.
  • Love endures. Love provides a strength that endures through all and that never quits — because that is against the nature of Love.

Love does plenty more, but make sure that you love yourself as well. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love anyone else the way you are meant to.

So what do you think love does? How have you seen other people demonstrate love? And what is joy to you?

Midnight Rush

12:53 AM: I’m lying in bed right now, trying so hard not to laugh out loud (I have a roommate who’s sleeping in the bed below me).

13 minutes ago, I sat straight up in bed, clambered down my ladder, put on my slippers, and sprinted around and out the wing to the front desk.

It was closed, after midnight.

As I walked back in disappointment, I saw Brecken peaking out from behind the wing door and ask, “Where are you going?”

She and Tia had been having a late night conversation in the hallway when I had frantically raced past them in my pajamas. They were genuinely concerned.

Earlier that day, Ashley had approached me and asked if I could make anything with her four bananas. That evening, we made four batches of chocolate chip banana muffins, half of them with peanut butter. They were heavenly, and everyone drooled as they walked by the kitchen. What utensils I couldn’t find at the front desk I borrowed from our friends in the apartment.

Clean up took a while, but I was finished by 11pm, everything returned. I was generous in sharing muffins with everyone who helped or donated supplies, including some who had just provided silly entertainment as I prepared the muffins.

I had been in bed for 10 minutes, mentally checking off tasks, and after verifying that everything was good to go for the next morning, I had allowed myself to drift off. But as my thoughts began to taper away, one thought pierced me: “You gave Emily’s muffin tin to the front desk!”

Reflection on 2014

Christmas Card 2014

Freshman year into sophomore year, I have continued enjoying my time at Taylor. As each semester comes, classes become more challenging, and balancing social needs and academic pressures becomes more difficult. I have come to appreciate my family more, and I have learned to treasure and cherish the time I have with those who are so precious to me, regardless of whether I have the privilege of seeing them everyday or only calling them once a year. I am so thankful for everything I have and have had in the past, and the ability to remember those precious moments, even though they have passed.

In Memory of Joy

As a part of the top ten percent of my graduating high school class, I had the privilege of recognizing a faculty member of the school district for being “most influential in my life.” Of course, I had plenty of teachers that I could easily have nominated. But I wanted to nominate someone who would probably never be nominated if I didn’t do it, someone who deserved recognition for her hard work. Of course, that was not an easy task because, well, how do you look for someone who is always overlooked?

So, during my spring break, I was helping to paint the set for our spring musical, and Joy was there, doing her work. I had to find her to open a closet so that we could wash our brushes. After a very excited greeting, she hobbled all the way back across the school with me just to unlock the closet. As I was rinsing brushes, I thought, what if I nominated Joy – a janitor?

Joy Nomination

So I did. I had to admit to the secretary that I had no idea what her last name was! Everyone just called her Joy.

Our nominees couldn’t find out who nominated them until they were recognized at the banquet. I remember rehearsing for the musical and overhearing some of the adults talking about Joy’s nomination and how overjoyed she was at being nominated. I was afraid to talk to her because I didn’t want to ruin the surprise. But I was thrilled that she was thrilled.

Being first in my class, I presented my award last. And, of course, Joy knew most of the (nearly) 40 students who presented awards before me. She waited on the edge of her seat for the entire banquet before she found out that her nominator was me.

Joy spent her last Christmas with my family. She didn’t have anyone left at home. She is surely missed, but I am so glad that she has all of her burdens lifted and that she doesn’t have to scrub toilets anymore – although if there were toilets in Heaven, I’m sure they’d be sparkling clean right now 🙂 She always told me that she couldn’t sing and that she loved hearing us “high school kids” sing. But I think she has the better deal right now, as far as music programs go.

Tribute to Joy

I thought of Joy as my fairy godmother. She went out to buy a dress just for that banquet. And she bought another dress for my graduation. She bought me expensive gifts for my graduation, and brought more for my graduation party. For my graduation party, as well as for Christmas, she brought her giant cake that everyone loves – angel food cake with cool whip, topped with Heath bar crumbs. I didn’t even get any at my grad party because it was all gone before I had a chance to grab some!

She always greeted us all with a kiss and always told us how great we looked. She always told me to tell my mom to come over so she could give my mom some of her many hosta plants. And she was always overjoyed to see us and hear how we were doing. She was such a blessing in our lives, and I’m so grateful for the memories I have of her.

If at all possible, I think heaven is just a little bit sweeter because of her presence.

Dearly Departed

Sonia Anne
Surface exploration drawing project dedicated to the memory of Sonia Anne Yu

尤曇

Sonia Anne Yu

“Especially Wise Grace”

December 23, 1992 – December 23, 1992

22 years ago, you were born, and 22 years ago, you went straight to Heaven. I guess Dad named you accordingly, because you were very wise to skip over all the pain and trials of life in a broken world. It was a wise choice that you probably didn’t make. Nonetheless, I know our family grieved for your loss, especially Mom. It’s not really the same for me, since I wasn’t even a conceived thought when your time came. I heard about you, and I imagined what life might be like if I had an older sister amongst my three brothers. But I never experienced the grief of your loss, since I never knew exactly what I had lost.

Grandpa gave you your Chinese name after the Queen of the Night flower (Epiphyllum oxypetallum), 曇花, Tánhuā, which blooms in the night, only for a short time before it wilts within a few hours. Mom and Grandma look for that flower every year, hoping to catch it in its full blooming glory, if only for a few short minutes, before it closes and shrivels away. I know they both think of you fondly when they await the flower’s blooming.

In my senior year of high school (two years ago), one of my drawing prompts was childhood memories on a surface other than paper. As I looked through old photo albums for inspiration, I thought of you and the parts of my childhood that you had missed out on. So I decided to turn a collage of a few of my childhood memories into a way to remember you, no matter how short a time you lived—I lived in the same place you lived in for 9 months (that’s one commonality).

One photo was of me and Edric on the rocking horse. I do still remember riding it, although the one in the collage is different from the original. In the collage, I have mounted the horse on an “S”-shaped carousel column for your first initial. The apple that hangs suspended in the center is for my love of apple juice. When I was little, I would only drink apple juice. Mom and Grandma both had an awful time trying to get me to drink water, which I detested—so much so, that I caught pneumonia as a result of dehydration and ended up in the hospital, screaming so loudly (at the needles) that Mom had to leave the floor.

The Chinese character is your Chinese name, for the flower that hovers next to it. The flower stems out of a very long ribbon…it’s the trill symbol, representative of my musical upbringing. I’ve been playing piano for as long as I can remember.

Another photo is of the four of us around “the duck.” I don’t remember the duck’s name. We just had a duck. It lived in our backyard at Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Kansas until it grew enough to fly away. Fluffy the Bunny also ran away shortly thereafter. Mom said it’s because “the duck” and Fluffy were best friends. I would not blame either of them if they just wanted to get away from us four crazy hooligans.

The third photo is of me climbing a tree in Judy’s backyard. She was our babysitter. I don’t think I ever made it past the first branch. But I always liked to hang on to that limb for as long as I could. I guess it made me feel accomplished. I placed little me and the tree so that it would create a “Y” for our last initial. The clouds and sky are representative of childhood imagination, as well as your home in Heaven.

I really just chose the cardboard because it sounded like the easiest non-traditional paper surface. I chose the shape of the heart after your gravestone. When we still lived in Kansas, Mom took me to see it every year. I can’t imagine what she went through. She seems to have handled the grief so well for all of these years. I know it’s been a lifelong journey and learning experience for her, as it is for the rest of us.

I know I don’t need to wish you well because you’re living far better than any of us right now. I look forward to meeting you some day.

Happy Birthday!

With Love,

Joyce