A Mark of Honor
Our first stop in CA was a center in San Francisco. Another team was there from National MFT-.an elite force. They were all sisters. I noticed when we were dressing that one sister had a large black and blue mark on her hip. I asked her what happened. “Oh, nothing”, she replied, “it’s just from carrying the box of candles on my hip [all day for weeks or months]. I secretly wanted a mark like that; it was like a war medal that military men wear proudly on their jackets, only mine would be hidden; only God would know. I thought, "If people die from working hard, I want to be the first American member to die from investing everything in fundraising.” It turns out people don’t usually die from working hard; they get stronger. Now I know.
Cain and Courage
One of the first teams I was on, the captain was very organized and punctual. The next team, the captain was disorganized and usually late picking us up. As I prepared my product with another sister, Nidnoy, I was complaining on and on about this new captain. She finally said, “Wow, you’re really “Cain.” I was taken aback. How many lectures had I heard about Cain inheriting Satan’s nature- #1.Failure to see from God’s point of view. To restore #1 we must strive to see others (in this case, my captain) from God’s point of view, appreciate, respect and serve him, and receive God’s love from him- as the first Cain should have done with his brother, Abel. Once I became aware of my fallen behavior I could change it. I shall always be grateful to my sister, Nidnoy, (that means small in Thai); she loved me enough to be honest with me. To tell someone their weakness takes courage. If we really love someone, do we want them to go to the spirit world with extra baggage weighing them down? Love you, Nidnoy!
One day, I stopped to eat lunch and sat down on a park bench nestled in the trees. I became mesmerized by nature, starting with the most exquisite, twig caterpillar which looks exactly like a miniature tree branch! I lost all sense of time When I finally ‘came to’ I was perturbed at myself for wasting precious time. “God”, I prayed, “please don’t let me do that again until Your Kingdom is built.”
FYI- 1: True Father said that we can look at a grain of sand for a thousand years in the spirit world and never grow tired of its beauty.
FYI-2: Twig caterpillars’ Latin name is Geometridae; God made more than 300 species of this moth caterpillar!
Sometimes I was so tired that if I stopped to use the bathroom I would fall
Asleep in the stall. I tried never to sit down the entire day. One afternoon, I sat down on a curb near the main street to eat my lunch, but kept dozing off in the warm sun and falling over, then catching myself. That night on a bar run, a customer shouted, pointing at me, “There’s that girl who was drunk in the middle of the day!” How mortifying!
Another time I was stopped by hospital security from selling my framed pictures to staff. I convinced the administration that staff was really interested in purchasing art for their newly renovated offices, so I was given permission to set up my pictures in the cafeteria the next day. What a blessing! I stood beside the display as employees ate breakfast, but, because I was not moving around, I kept falling asleep- standing up. The staff was very concerned that I was on drugs. (I was very skinny then too.). I assured them that I was just tired, so they brought me a coffee. I still kept falling over. They angrily insisted I pack up and leave.
Although our lifestyle in our movement was celibate and very sacrificial, I was sometimes seen as a ‘loose woman’ as I fundraised at all hours and in every imaginable locale, including bars. I wished that I could wear a nun’s habit so that at least my religious calling was obvious, but no. Like a spy working incognito, my true identity was known to but a few. Since God was one of them, it was comforting to feel His presence. As I walked the streets I would sometimes sing this verse I wrote to the tune of a popular Spanish tune: “Aye, Aye, Aye, Aye. Canto sin miedo-porque siempre con Dios, mi Padre, nunca camino solo.” (I sing without fear because I am always with God, my Father. I never walk alone.)
There have been countless times when I’ve been seen as idiotic, incompetent, immoral or untrustworthy, even though I was striving with my utmost sincerity to do God’s will. I think it is safe to say that most, if not all, members have had similar experiences. God Himself is blamed for all the wrongs in the world, when He is actually working nonstop to end them...or to work with people to end them. When following God, we find ourselves in the same situation as God, Himself. Trying to prove our innocence is almost always futile; we must simply continue moving forward.
I think aboutTrue Father when he was in prison; he comforted God. How blessed we are to have an example of a true way of life.
A Bus Trip?
At times we had long stretches to walk during the day. Once I felt so exhausted; I imagined getting on a bus, not to leave, but just simply to take a break. After I sat down, Heavenly Father (as an old man) got on the bus too and sat down in front of me, all the while crying. So, really! Where am I going to escape my responsibility when God is always right there with me?
As long as I can remember I was involved in art, drawing, painting, sculpture...until I joined the Unification Movement. Art had been the core of my life. While on one of those long treks from one town to the next, I wondered if I would ever create any art again. Without words, God showed me that my life itself was my artwork- every emotion, every interaction -these were the colored threads being woven into the tapestry of my life. I was ‘doing art’ every day, every moment.
I have thought about that long after MFT. Now I would advise all artists to spend time volunteering before immersing themselves in their art.
And comfort all artist mothers - and all mothers- to recognize the sacred art of parenting.
Team members sometimes lamented to me, missing their family and friends. I listened politely and felt sorry for their longing. Conversely I was blessed; my life before the church had been so difficult that I did not look back and long for anything.
Palm Springs Sewage
Once evening,I had my framed pictures set up outside a convenience store in a residential area of Palm Springs- a very wealthy part of CA. The streets were surprisingly empty. Finally a woman came by the store; she was in a hurry. I commented about it being so quiet. She said, “Yes, they're going to reveal who shot JR tonight.” I thought she meant JFK, and said ‘Oh I read something about a conspiracy theory who shot JFK.” She looked at me strangely and said, “No. JR. JR.” as though I should know exactly who JR was. “Who is JR?” I asked her. She seemed somewhat shocked that I did not know. When she told me he was a character on TV, I was stupefied. This entire town of wealthy, educated people is sitting watching a soap opera on TV?! Maybe poor folk, yes.; TV is cheap entertainment, but rich people who have millions of options for their time! Was this laughable?...or worrisome?
I’ve seen large beautiful homes with ever larger TV screens in each room- even in the hallways and kitchen. To me turning on TV is akin to opening a sewer into one’s home. Yet people’s awareness of what they are doing is turned off. So with all of their TVs, rich people are allowing more sewage into their homes- like the ancient Romans dying from lead poisoning as they lived a life of wanton gluttony.
On MFT there were many opportunities to lose one’s pride and sense of dignity- nonessential components that they are. The captain once lost the team members’ clothes at a laundromat - either he just forgot them when we drove to another town or someone had actually stolen them. Rather than give members money and allow us to buy some new clothes, he went to a thrift store and bought clothes for us by himself. Consequently, we wore pants that were too short, shirts that were too tight or too loose and styles that were obviously outdated. CA is probably the most image-conscious state of any in the US. We were out on the street in outfits that attracted attention by their awkwardness. So how can we meet people all day long and bring results when they are distracted- and repelled- by our appearance? SMILE. Our energy and smile had to be so powerful that we dominated the situation. Integrity is more essential than pride and dignity. We had to hold onto that tightly like a lifeline, remembering who we are (God’s emissaries) and what our mission is and make our smile our outfit. We all survived this challenging situation.
There were times - especially in the morning when we were piling into our vehicles- that I have felt God’s gratitude that we were going out to fundraise. How astonishing and humbling! That God should let His heart be known- a Father to His sons and daughters- Thank you, dear children- for going out today. Now as I write this, perhaps it was True Father in his morning prayer, reaching out to us from NY to CA. Either way it was heart-melting.
One day I was selling Big Stick Gum (about 12” x 4”). I entered an empty stadium, thinking I might sell to some employees. I had never been to a stadium before and rarely watched sports. Now, I was awed by the huge capacity of the building (about 70,000) and the fact that all spectators would be focused on a handful of players on the field. Instantly the analogy of the spirit world and people on earth sprang into my mind. Billions (or more) spiritual beings are spectators watching what was transpiring on earth. Matt. 18:18 “What you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven; What you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.” We on earth are the players in the field; what we do while on earth has a direct impact in the spirit world. We are being watched by the cheering (or booing) crowds of our ancestors and all those entities dwelling in the Spiritual Realm.
Boom-booms were a cute product purchased from Asia, probably Japan. A small chubby fuzzy bumblebee, a pipe-cleaner firefly with gauze-like wings, butterflies of multiple colors and designs- each one attached to a long thin metal stick; these could be put into potted plants, an office pencil holder or anywhere for decoration. We probably sold them $3.00 each or 2 for $5.00. I entered a small restaurant somewhere in Southern CA. The Japanese man behind the counter was busy preparing a takeout order. I quickly gave my spiel, introducing the firefly as “Akai tombo”, the title of a famous Japanese folk song. He asked me to please take a seat and wait. When he was finished with the customer, he came and sat down across from me. The place was empty and quiet. He asked me if he could share a short story with me; I nodded.
Near the end of WWII, he was called to be a kamikaze pilot in Japan. Kamikaze were pilots who intentionally crashed their explosive-laden aircraft into an enemy target; thus every mission was suicidal.
Every Japanese person- man, woman, child- was called to do their part for the war effort. He and his comrades were quite young, probably high school age or even younger. Supplies were dwindling; gasoline was low and there were few planes with which to train the young men. They relied upon an old bi-plane to learn the basics. Because of its red color, they affectionately called it ‘Akai tombo’, red dragonfly. Each day at mealtime, they would sing the folk song together, then raise their glasses of sake in honor of the ones called for their first -and last- mission.
The war ended before he was called up, thus he lived to be sitting here across from me telling the story, reminiscing about all of the friends he had lost so many years ago. He bought the Akai tombo; I thanked him for sharing such a deep story and silently marveled that he was here in the USA; I felt pride that my country could offer a safe, prosperous home for someone who once sought to destroy her.
Now as I write this, I sincerely hope and pray that this man will not suffer from survivor’s guilt as he looks at the red dragonfly or remembers his past, but instead that he lives his life joyfully and fruitfully in honor of his precious comrades.
FYI- the English translation to the Japanese folk song, Akai Tombo
I recall a scarlet dragonfly
In the sunset’s glow
Why should I remember it so well
all those years ago?
Was it real or did I dream it
High upon that hill?
We were picking mulberries
And I just a baby still.
Nanny went away to marry
She was scarce fifteen
What has happened to the village
All those years in between?
Still I see a scarlet dragonfly
In the setting sun
Over yonder tip of young bamboo
Just as day was done.
The sentiment of this song is so characteristic of Japanese culture, very similar to a haiku poem which captures one precious second in time.
I was in a McDonalds. I struck up a conversation with a Vietnamese man in line. It was the late 70’s. (South Vietnam had fallen to communist forces in April 1975). I am forever curious about the stories of immigrants and, after welcoming him and wishing him well, I asked him a few questions. In broken English, he insisted on buying me an orange juice and we sat for a short while in the dining area. I usually ask what they found different or surprising in the US, what they like, what they do not like, etc.
An Ethiopian man once told me that when he saw the clean, paved roads in the US he felt an exhilarating feeling of freedom; that he could drive anywhere he wanted. Often immigrants lament that Americans are too busy to have friends, to talk, that life is difficult here with little time to relax and enjoy life.
I do not remember any of this kind man’s answers except one which pierced me like an arrow to my core. What did he appreciate the most about America? “The freedom from fear.”, he answered.
Have I ever lived in fear? ..other than my own peculiar idiosyncrasies. Freedom from fear is not even one of the five guaranteed freedoms in our Constitution. Surely it is a freedom we take for granted every day of our lives in the US. What kind of life must he have lived before coming here? What must he have endured before coming here and appreciating what is invisible to us? How many people in the world live in fear still?! We must create a world to end this horrific suffering.
I thank God, Divine Principle and True Parents a million times a million that I dedicated my youth and my life to end the suffering of my fellow brothers and sisters. But I know all too well I have not done enough.
His answer still rankles me. I will not remove that arrowhead; neither will I digest it. I keep it as a burning reminder; there is still more work to be done. Let me never become complacent.