Donate Pads!

Now that it’s the holiday season, people may be feeling generous and want to do good. Some may want to donate hygiene products to a local homeless shelter, which is a good idea. Homeless shelters could always use items like soap, toothbrushes, or toothpaste.

But I remember something I learned last year from Kaitlin Beck and students with Law Students for Reproductive Justice. They had conducted a donation drive for an important item that is often overlooked in donations. They were collecting feminine hygiene products (pads and tampons) to provide for homeless women.

Truth be told, I wouldn’t have thought about how homeless women would need feminine hygiene products. I don’t know much about menstruation and the daily realities that women face. Yet there is no doubt that safe and sanitary products are necessary for all women. Moreover, such products allow homeless women to maintain a sense of dignity in circumstances that leave them feeling displaced or invisible.

Donors may be reluctant to donate feminine hygiene products because of a sense of shame or discomfort regarding menstruation. People feel weird talking about it. As a consequence, the needs of homeless women for these products goes unmet.

So if you plan to donate an item to a local homeless shelter, consider asking if the shelter needs feminine hygiene products. You could really help meet a need.

Christmas Eve 2015

It’s Christmas Eve. For some people, this is a day of deep religious significance, full of hope and meaning. For other people, it is a day of fun and festivity, of warmth and delight. But for most people, this is a season for family and gathering and connection.

I was musing about the timing of winter holidays. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, winter holidays come at a strange time. Snow and cold weather make travel difficult. The early nighttimes are conducive to contemplation and solitude. Yet for many, this time is the biggest season for travel and merry-making. Perhaps ancient people saw how natural cycles shape their tendency to isolate, and started traditions to highlight togetherness and community. We made it through another year! Let’s celebrate. Together.

This is a season for family. For some people, that is a source of joy and thanksgiving. For others, it is a source of tension, anger, and anxiety. For still others, it is a source of loneliness and grief. As much as we may share jolly greetings and mirth with each other, let us also recognize that this is a hard time for some people.

So, Merry Christmas to all who celebrate Christ. Let us remember the wondrous gift that we have received. Let us proclaim the good news of the reconciliation of God and humanity. Let us reflect on and reflect out the goodness of God.

And Merry Christmas to all who will receive this greeting, of all faith persuasions. May this season be a time for what is needed: joy in its proper time, and sorrow in its proper time. Laughter and tears, words and silence.

And for those who would rather not receive a Merry Christmas greeting; still, a greeting of peace for you. May this season produce peace both within you and through you to others. May this peace overcome paranoia, hatred, and indifference.

May this be a time for all of us to grow in charity and care for each other. To celebrate each other and how we have grown through this year. Also, there’s pie, since nothing says celebration like simple carbohydrates. Enjoy!

Responding to brokenness with love

I’ve had a couple people comment on my recent Facebook post regarding my response to the hookup scene in Master of None. I’ve appreciated the thoughtful comments. I recognize that some of my peers hold different opinions regarding sexuality than I do, and look forward to learning more from others. Some of my response is based on a lack of familiarity with this topic, so I enjoy hearing from others.

I also recognize that my response is based on a specific theology regarding sexuality. At some point, I would like to share my perspective on this topic, as I hope that it would be helpful to understand the perspective of myself and others of my theological community.

However, I know that some individuals have been deeply hurt by Christians in this area of their lives. Individuals who have been excoriated, ridiculed, even threatened by people of faith. Individuals who see Christians not as people of mercy and love, but as people of judgment and hatred. Please note that I can only speak to the response of Christians; I cannot claim to speak about individuals’ experiences with people of other religions.

But I remember the stories of Jesus in the Gospels. I remember the story of him caring for a young woman who had had multiple husbands, and was living with a man who was not her husband. I remember the story of him receiving the adoration of a woman living in sin, as she washed his feet with her tears and anointed them with oil. I remember his mercy for a woman caught in adultery.

To be clear, Jesus did not compromise on his virtues. He told these women that what they were doing was wrong, that the paths they had chosen were paths of sin, not paths to life and fulfillment. But Jesus did not wield his virtues as a hammer to shape people to be worthy of his love. His love shaped transformation in their lives, so that they submitted to his virtues. His kindness led them to repentance. He called them to change, not so that they could earn his love, but through his love.

Now, I know some may say that a casual sexual hookup is not a sinful act. That is a theological point that merits serious discussion, and I may touch on that in another post. For now, I will simply say that Jesus referred to sin as sickness. He responded to sickness with compassion and care, not hatred and alienation. I pray that I become a person to whom broken people can turn for healing and restoration. I pray that I do not react to brokenness out of fear and ignorance, but with a desire for understanding and patience. I pray that I carry my beliefs not as a weapon, but as an invitation into something wonderful.

Dating?

One other moment from the first episode of “Master of None” caught my attention. In the very first scene, Dev—the main character—is having sex with a woman when his condom breaks. Concerned that she might get pregnant, he calls an Uber (UberX, not Uber BLACK), and they go to a pharmacy to pick up a birth control pill. The Uber drops the woman off at her apartment. Dev and the woman end the night by saying, “Well, it was nice meeting you. Let’s keep in touch.”

I imagine that this is a perfectly ordinary scene, one that many of my peers have experienced. What struck me was the casual nature of the encounter. As Dev himself said, in describing how the Plan B pill helped him avoid a potential crisis, “So now two people that barely know each other won’t be raising a human child together.”

I suppose this is part of what is called the hook-up culture? I really don’t know. I’ve only gone on one date in my life, and that was back in 2011. There’s a lot about dating and romance in the modern age that I don’t understand. I had heard about people hooking up, but it was interesting to see an example play out on screen.

I don’t mean any judgment or condemnation in my words. People will do what they will. I just note how I approach relationships differently. For my own part, I was raised was to approach relationship with care and consideration. I want to treat relationships delicately, because they are powerful. In thinking about the woman I want to date, I want to make sure to treat her with respect, honor, and kindness. This is not to say that a casual hook-up can’t provide these attributes, but it doesn’t seem particularly conducive to do so.

Some of this approach stems from my Korean upbringing. Some of it stems from my faith tradition—I have been extolled to “Treat your potential date as the daughter of the King.” But also, I believe that a relationship will not be the complete answer for my insecurity and loneliness. A romantic relationship is important, of course, but I can’t rely on it to provide me with total fulfillment. That is too much burden to cast on one person.

Anyway, the show is fun and I’ll probably watch another episode. Maybe I’ll learn more interesting things about my generation!

Parenthood

Lindsey Moriguchi recommended that I check out “Master of None”, the Netflix show starring Aziz Ansari of Parks and Recreation. In the first episode, Dev (played by Ansari) contemplates whether he would want to have kids. The show makes clear that children can be a mixed blessing. They can be wonderful, sweet, and life-giving. They can also be selfish, messy, and draining. Children are good, but just like other good things, require work.

This past week, I got to witness a unique expression of the joy of parenthood. I went to a concert by Judith Hill, a powerful and soulful singer (thanks Teressa for letting me join!) Judith’s parents met while playing in a funk band. In fact, her parents were backing for her at the concert: Robert Hill was on bass and Michiko Hill on keyboard. I could clearly see how proud they were of their daughter. I imagined them saying “We know that Judith is amazing. Now other people get to see how amazing she is.”

But this isn’t to say that I would need to be a talented performing artist who sang with Michael Jackson to have my parents’ love. My mom once said to me, “I know that if you or Dale got into a car accident and become paralyzed or can’t talk or do anything, I would still be proud to be your mom, because I know how wonderful you are.”

A story about Japanese internment

I remember a conversation I had with a friend about the internment camps for Japanese people during World War II. My friend is Japanese-American. Her family has lived in the US for generations. Her grandmother was living in California when the Japanese army bombed Pearl Harbor. Her grandmother’s family was taken to a camp somewhere in the desert. They left their house, which her great-grandfather had worked so hard to buy. They left their clothes, their possessions, their business. When the war ended and they returned home, everything was gone. Before the internment, her grandmother’s family had a decent living. Now everything was taken from them. Even now, decades later, her grandmother still harbors some bitterness toward the U.S. government for what it did.

Could something like this happen again? I hope not. But as a Korean American, I wonder. What if North Korea declares war on the U.S.? Would I and other Korean Americans face terrible consequences? Would my family be forced to give up our home, our possessions, our community?

Some would say that such a situation would never happen, since South Korea is such a strong ally of the U.S. I certainly hope that is true.

Speaking of allies, the U.S. has strong connections with countries in South and Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia, India, and Bangladesh. These countries are important economic and diplomatic partners with the U.S. They are also the countries with the largest Muslim populations in the world. I wonder what would happen if the U.S. were to block Muslims from coming here. I can’t imagine the Indonesian government would be happy that we banned 204 million of its citizens from visiting the U.S.

Final exams

Last Friday, I met up with a law school friend for lunch. As we waited for another friend to join us, we chatted a bit about the weekend. Then he said “So how many finals do you have?”

I paused, then said “You know what? Let’s talk about something else. People ask that question all the time during finals. I know what they really mean is ‘How stressed out are you?’ The number of finals is meant as a measure for stress and work. But that’s not interesting to me. Let’s talk about something interesting. What are you looking forward to for winter break?”

We then had a lovely conversation about his plans to visit his brother-in-law in Texas.

It’s finals week right now, and people are working hard. Some are stressing out. Finals is on everyone’s minds. There’s no need to stress each other out more.

So if you ask me “How many finals do you have?” I will probably say “Let’s talk about something interesting. What’s one thing you learned from the class? What surprised you? What are you hoping for during winter break?”