Monday, December 29, 2008

Packets of Oatmeal

Although a composition I wrote for English class, this personal narrative lies close to my heart. Perhaps it did get me a good grade, but I know that it was more than that. The lesson I learned in the story is a lesson I am still learning today, and perhaps a lesson I will be learning for life.

“We’re here!”

Voices reacted in unison as my family filtered into the crowded restaurant private room the evening before we left for the United States. Since my parents would be dropping me off for college there, that evening comprised the last “complete” family reunion for a long time.

“Are you ready?” people repeatedly asked me.

“Yeah, I think so,” I would reply.

I did think I was ready. After all, so many people had already given me everything I needed. Yet, I did not know that I was going to bring with me a reminder of the most important thing of all that night.

The initial commotion gradually subsided. Everyone—aunts, uncles, and cousins, adults and infants, Grandpa and Grandma—gathered around the circularly-set tables.

Although there was still no food, many things cluttered the tables. There were colorful placemats, hand-painted tea cups, dainty platters, nice little chopsticks, and in the midst of them all, some packets of instant oatmeal.

The presence of those boxes looked strange to me as I sat down, but I was too busy chattering to give it much thought.

“Do you have a computer yet? Clothing? Shoes? Suitcases or bags?” the questions continued.

I continued to answer in the affirmative. I already had everything I needed. Then whenever they mentioned something that I did not have, I would decline to receive it, mostly because those items were too heavy or too bulky to carry overseas.

I prattled on with everyone around me, until Grandma called me. Then I realized that I had not talked to her the whole evening.

“Yes, Grandma?”

“Take these,” she thrust the packets of oatmeal over to me, her voice slightly shaky, “You can have them in your dorm when you’re hungry.”

“Oh, but Grandma, you didn’t have to! I wouldn’t need them,” I began to decline again, but she continued.

“Oh, these won’t take too much space in your luggage. They won’t be heavy. You could slip them in between your packed items,” her teary tone intensified, “You could bring them so that you don’t go hungry.”

My instinct told me to decline. After all, I really did not need the oatmeal. Yet when I looked at Grandma, then at my parents’ wise gazes, then back at Grandma, I started to realize the point.

“Thank you, Grandma,” I received the oatmeal, emotion beginning to grow in me as well.

I didn’t need the oatmeal, and I still don’t. Yet Grandma needed to show her love, and I needed her love. I could have been ready with everything, but all that everything would be meaningless without my family’s love.

Now, I still don’t need the oatmeal, and they just sit inside my drawers. Yet seeing those little packets remind me of Grandma, and of the love from home that I will always need.

They are worth far more than everything else because they are more than packets of oatmeal. They are packets of love.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Are You a Stranger or a Friend?

Perhaps it was reading too much Pride and Prejudice, or maybe it was reciting to much Victorian poetry. Whatever the reason was, I composed this poem with an Austen ballroom in mind. It is a rather inconsequential poem in terms of content, but it still did make me practice a complicated rhyme scheme and the depiction of a particular moment of thought in human interactions.

I saw you right across the room
And knew you right away,
Within a crowd of coats and plumes
My eyes still somehow lay
Upon your face, your countenance,
Your actions, words, and bends,
Then to my heart I asked, perchance,
“Are you a stranger or a friend?”

I saw you walk towards my side
With smile upon your face,
But as you walked your youthful stride
Below the ballroom’s daze,
My heart pulled back in hesitance,
My hand I could not lend,
For then I asked myself, perchance,
“Are you a stranger or a friend?”

I knew you not, yet you I knew,
A paradox was done;
Familiarity in you
Was equal parts to none.
So I smiled back and walked away,
The audience thus did end,
So now I cannot ever say
If you were stranger or a friend.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Nothing in the World

I seldom write pure lyrics, lyrics that do not resemble poetry in any sense. But with this song, the words flowed out of me so naturally as I composed beside my cousin Theodore. I remember that evening of composition very well, just as I remember the song very well. Truly, nothing can satisfy once one has been found by the One who finds.

Time and time again,
I’ve felt a longing deep within,
Trying hard to find my place
Within this world of sin,
Time and time again,
I’ve searched my dreams all over
Saw them formed, fulfilled, and lost…

Until the day I said
I couldn’t do it any more,
His love called and restored me
To all I should be living for.

And so I found by being found,
And I was freed by being bound,
And bound to Him I’ll always be,
For in His goodness I am free.

And nothing, nothing in the world
Could ever satisfy,
For Jesus, He is everything
I’d ever want in life.