Poverty. When I was young, I tried to recall and remember when I knew poverty existed. When was it recognizable to me. As a young child, did I realize what it was when I saw it. Did I comprehend this as it played out in my own life? I knew enough to tell people 'we' were poor when I lived in Korea. Why not? When I lived in Korea with my sister, she had placed this concept into my thoughts. Once, I arrived to the States, I saw how different 'Americans' lived..like my family. As soon as I arrived, all I could see were multi-level houses with many rooms, much like the house I was about to move into.
My first impressions that confirmed this fact was the TVs, all the furniture, cars and toys. My sister's story of America was true. Once I arrived to the States, I realized that I was going to live in a big house much like the one of my First Foster Mother..even bigger. One thing I did after I had moved into my new Home was to get down on my knees and show that I could be a good cleaner and helper. I got down on my knees and pretended to wash. My mother was taken by this and quickly illustrated to me that I did not have to clean. They gave me toys and showed me how to play with them. Then, I remember, seeing a lady visit to clean their house. In my mind, this confirmed everything I was told.
Well, that is how I interpreted it when I was young and only 7 years of age. These impressions were more of an understanding attaching itself to what was already placed in my thoughts. I think about this and realize that my very first impressions of this concept came much earlier without any previously set notion from anyone. I realize that aside from my sister's talks and my impressions thereafter, I had witnessed things that I would never forget and perhaps, would influence my life.
One memory, that had always haunted me and had played out in my dreams was the image of seeing old men in their tattered clothing and bags, spread out in a line, stretched across the walls of the underpasses in Seoul. In my dreams, I can see their faces and expressions. I feel their sorrow, pain, and regrets. Sometimes, in different variations of my dreams, I see the Fathers holding onto their families, holding them so close not realizing that they are suffocating, that they are slowly dying of hunger and weakness. The other is the one from the previous post about the kind man that gave me his sesame candy.
I know that witnessing these images did not enlighten me during my childhood. But the images did speak to me when I was there. It had impacted my life, my thoughts, and how I would think about the effects of poverty on the individual, family, and community further down my life.
It is interesting to note that no matter how tough it was for my family (even facing homelessness and displacement ourselves), I never compared it with the images of the old men. As a child, I used my imagination to escape the signs of personal hardship while the images of the homeless were left aside to later be found and defined as Poverty.
5 years ago