Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sudden Impact

In the beginning there was a giant gumball machine. It was halfway full of gumballs of all different colors, sitting comfortably—passively—on top of one another. As if responding to a silent summons, a hand reached up and put a quarter into the slot. Then it turned the metal handle. A metallic chick-chick-chiiick and quite suddenly, every gumball began to fly about its glass prison. They whizzed back and forth, bouncing violently off the transparent walls and colliding into one another with great cracks and sudden chipping of the colored surfaces. Then even the chips continued this frenzied, unstoppable sprint. For a time, all of the pieces ricocheted back and forth, chipping at one another and doing damage until not one was left unharmed.

The most recent gumballs I’ve collided with are Yujin and and Joonyong Um. They are a Korean couple I met through a class at Calvin this past semester. Despite Joonyong’s rigorous academic schedule as he completes his Master’s degree in education and Yujin’s broken English—and their two young children, one of whom has not yet stopped moving since leaving the womb and has a terrible sense of balance—they have taken me under their wing and begun to teach me Korean. Already I’ve been to their house twice, and both times Yujin cooked me dinner and Joonyong explained Korean history and culture to me.

This new friendship has come swiftly on the heels of hurtful times, during which I’ve surely damaged people and they’ve done the same to me. It’s inevitable, in this finite little gumball machine with such energy pent up inside, to chip off one another’s paint in painful ways. Collisions are a fixed part of life. In each of us unending potential to hurt others lays dormant, waiting for a collision.

Even chickens look to positively affect those around them

So it seems as if there’s nothing for it but to do our best to make each collision a good one. I feel certain that Yujin and Joonyong are chipping off my paint, and sending those pieces flying about my future. But they’re good pieces, pieces that have been imbibed with humility and generosity, and they are sure to collide positively with others. I regret the bad pieces I’ve chipped off of others in the past, pieces filled with bitter resentment and prideful remarks that are now sure to collide with others and cause still more damage. But ultimately, it’s nice to know there’s still plenty of time to bounce around in my glass cage and slam into people for the better.

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