Be Radiant, faith

A Profound Moment in Korea

Donna in Korea
Donna A. Heckler eating lunch in Seoul in 1996.  Trying to Be Radiant and smiling at all the food being placed in front of her.

What outstanding news this morning, to learn that the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had crossed into South Korea for a Korean summit.  It reminded me of my own profound moment in South Korea many years ago.

The year would have been 1996 and I was leading the marketing for Energizer through-out Asia-Pacific.  While I was based in Hong Kong, I traveled all over Asia for work, several times making the trip to Seoul, South Korea.

During one of my visits to Seoul, my translator and the people I worked with took me to a market for a little shopping.  While we were walking through the market, my translator was pulled aside and a conversation started.  I wondered if I was the topic, as they kept pointing to me.  After a few minutes, my translator came back to me and said that this gentleman would like to speak with me, if I was willing.

“Of course” was my answer, “what does the man want to talk about?”

“I will let him tell you himself” my translator responded.

The man was older, weathered, I might say.  He was hunched over a little and his dusty white t-shirt spoke of all the work he did.  He reached for my hand to shake it and I smiled.  He started to speak to me, stopping periodically, so my translator could share.

“I have never met an American before” he began. ” I wanted to meet you, because you are American, right?”

“Yes.  Yes, I am American.  It is so nice to meet you.”

“I wanted to meet you because I wanted to thank you.  I want to thank you for sending all the American troops over here to South Korea to keep us safe.  I want to thank you for all that America has done for us.  I wanted to thank an American in person.  Thank you, thank you.  Will you tell everyone in America how much we, in South Korea, appreciate that?  Will you tell your President?”

I was so touched.  “Oh, what kind words, thank you.  Yes, I will share your message in America.  I don’t know the President.  I don’t know that I can get your message to him, but I will certainly share it.”

As I left the man I had this overwhelming sense of awe.  I had no idea the profound impact America was having in South Korea.  I didn’t know the number of troops.  I didn’t understand what it meant to the people there.

But, it mattered so much to this man that he had to stop a stranger, an American and offer his thanks to her, through her translator.

When I returned to America, I told that story quite a few times.  It was part of a larger narrative for me; that being to understand the impact that America has on the world stage.  I had not known.  I had not understood that.

So, as today’s profound moment in Korea occurred, I kept thinking of my own profound moment.  I thought of that kind man and his words of gratitude.  I thought that sharing his message of gratitude might be a perfect thing to write about and share today.






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