Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gratitude - Guest Blogger Amber Newton

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Amber Newton, an artist and expatriate teacher in South Korea. I can tell you that this woman has a heart of gold. As much as she can possibly do, she does. You can view more of her work here on her blog, Amber Coloured.
By Amber Newton

My friend, Marilyn sends me a facebook message inviting me to guest blog during November, writing about an experience in South Korea with the theme of ‘gratitude’. I agree, because I can’t say no. It’s that people-pleaser, sometimes asset, sometimes weakness part of my personality. Soon it got registered in the “things to do” segment of my consciousness. But what to write about? Over the past three years here I’ve become a different person three times over, and so I know I should have at least been grateful three times. But to narrow down an experience that I’ve had here. A moment? A day? A month? As I scanned my memory of students, friends, coworker, strange sightings on the subway, encounters on the streets and in night clubs, I drew a blank. So I stopped thinking about it, more because my days are busy and I usually need a list to remind me what I need to think about. Yesterday though, it all became obvious. What I already knew came to me in an email when I needed to be reminded of it the most.

I had just got home from Shinsegae department store, the one which is allegedly now the largest department store in the world. As I was leaving it looked as though they were about to do the lighting of the enormous Christmas tree they have set up out front. Carols were blasting, and a crowd was forming. I was hopping into a taxi trying to look the other way. It wasn’t always like this. As I child I loved Christmas more than anything, like most children around the world who reap the benefits of that holiday. As I grew older things became less merry, as Christmas with my family became as much about wondering if my schizophrenic uncle would be on or off his meds that day, or if my other uncle would bring over his girlfriend that no one liked. My family gradually grew apart, the party guest list smaller, and as I started working more retail jobs it was enough to make any teenager critical of consumerism in capitalistic societies.

After the age of eighteen I moved across the country, and there were no more Christmas’ at home. I either spent them alone, with friend’s families, or working as a servant in some rich family’s home for just enough money to spend on a night out as soon as I got back to my neighborhood. Then there was last Christmas, my first one home in 8 years, sitting only with my grandma in front of the TV, after having just spent weeks by my grandpa/dad’s side in hospitals as he died. He was who made Christmas when I was a kid, he loved it more than anyone I ever knew, and now I get tears streaming down my face at the sight of a department store Christmas tree?

I was thinking about the irony of this when I got home and as I robotically turned on my computer to check my e-mails. In my mailbox was an e-mail from my friend’s mom in the Philippines, who I had just sent 5 huge boxes of relief clothing to, in assistance of her amazing efforts to support victims of the recent typhoons. The boxes had arrived, and her words were overflowing with love. She commended the fundraising I did from the bottom of her heart. This gratitude was rooted in her desire to help those in need, and likewise it spread to me because of my desire to help her do so.

Now, even though the religious undertones and commercial mania are lost on me, when I see a Christmas tree I can look through it rather than away, and remember to be grateful for those things I can still do.

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