While living in the States, one of the things I've missed most are the heated floors (ondol) often found in Korean homes. Especially when it’s chilly or cold, I recollect the times in my youth where I would roll around on the warmest place of the floor. Due to the ongoing brisk mornings and evenings in California, I still have the electric heating pad under my sheets on my bed. Even my children get envious of my heating pad during the winter. These days, though the midsummer’s cold and flu season is seemingly not rampant, I still can’t shake off the effects of fatigue. I am able to barely fall asleep by taking some Advil caplets, but I am torn as to whether or not I should turn on the electric heating pad. The Southern California weather really has no charm; though it may be a clear, fine spring weather outside, inside the home is plagued with almost a chilly loneliness.
A few days ago, I saw the incident reported regarding a passenger that was forcefully dragged off of a United Airlines plane in order to make room for United staff. As a result of this, the passenger reported that his nose was broken while also suffering through a concussion and broken teeth. It was surprising, to say the least, that this occurred in a nation that guarantees no problems for law abiding citizens in perhaps the greatest democracy the world has ever seen. At first, it was claimed that the flight was overbooked, but eventually it was found out that there was a false report of a ‘belligerent’ passenger in order to facilitate for a flight attendant who had been tardy. The airlines CEO added fuel to the flame by sending out a company-wide e-mail stating that the flight attendants followed the manual and to continue to follow suit.
As a citizen of the United States, why is it that as I come back into the country and go through immigration, I feel like a sinner? Why do immigration officers wear uniforms? Why is nobody smiling? It may be due to the sheer number of people that they have to see, but back in the day, they would at the very least say, ‘Welcome home.’ Now, I feel like I am being interrogated. It may be due to the uncertainty of these times where suspicious people try to enter the country. So in protection of one’s countryman, I can understand. However, I worry for the character development of customs agents as they oppress a sense of transgression to travelers with a psychological burden resembling an interrogation procedure.
As the landscape ahead of us may be getting desolate, I definitely miss the affection from people. As the cold makes me want to lie down, wrapped in a comforter seated on the warmest area of the ondol floor while peeling back a sweet potato, I miss the people that are like an ondol room. It has become a world where we miss the warm people that can melt away a freezing heart, much like an ondol room in the midst of a snowstorm. Let us become those that evoke that warmth. Let this time also be a time where we can meet the warmth of Jesus. You will be able to experience a love that can melt even the coldest of all hearts.
Rev. Bryan Kim is the lead pastor of Bethel Korean Church, located in Irvine, CA.