Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Might As Well Be Strangers...

I had a sad realization in one of my classes today. We're reading a book about a girl's family who loses everything in a fire and the neighbors help out by giving food, furniture, clothes, and even a teddy bear. I asked them if they knew what that felt like, if they had ever helped a neighbor in need or would do so. None of my students could answer in the affirmative.

Coming from small-town North Carolina, where almost everybody knows each other, Korea is a whole world away in its beliefs. If someone needed some help back home in Sanford, people would hold barbecue dinners and church fundraisers to raise money or awareness. Here, people keep to themselves and go day-to-day with the attitude of "it's not my problem." I've come to see that many Koreans internalize things, most of the time to a disastrous end.

My students commented that they really don't know who their neighbors are in their high-rise apartment buildings, and wouldn't know how to ask them for help. I admit that applies to me only because of the language barrier and schedule differences. But I can tell you that a couple with noisy dogs lives on my left, while a quiet university student lives on my right.

I hope I managed to impart them with a good message today, however. Before they left class for the day, I told them that even the smallest bit of good makes a lot of difference. Let's just hope it sticks longer than the 2 minutes I took to express that sentiment.

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