Spectator - Chapter 11: Church
The man nodded as he proceeded to wash the foam off his head using the water from his kitchen tap.
His name is Sangho, a middle-aged ex-factory worker who had lost one of his arms in an accident at the factory he used to work at.
I waited for a while before finally entering his room and observing my surroundings. .
The room was a complete mess; heaps of trash resided in almost every corner, beer cans littered the floor and clothes were piled up on chairs in such a way that even the slightest movement would cause everything to collapse.
Despite all that, there was a table and a few chairs that were exceptionally clean and tidy, it looked strangely out of place.
It was probably the place where I was supposed to set up the computer. So I took the components out of the box and started connecting the wires.
As I booted up the PC, Mr Sangho walked in while drying his hair with a towel.
“Ah, It looks good. Is everything working fine?”
“Yeah. I promised, didn’t I? Do You like it?”
A wide smile formed on his sparsely bearded, wrinkled face. I started explaining the basics to him on how to boot and access the internet and how to play online games. He kept nodding and when I was done, he said: “Please slow down, I need to write it all down just in case I forget something later on.”
The explanation wasn’t very complex, so it shouldn’t take him long to memorize it.
“Oh and remember, most kids are pretty good at using the latest technology so don’t feel shy if you ever need help from one of the kids. It might look difficult at first but you will get used to it in no time.”
“Haha. Okay okay. Ah… … would you like to have some pancakes? My wife makes really good pancakes.”
“Maybe some other time.”
‘-Wasn’t this man squandering all the money he received as compensation after the accident?’
His family’s situation wasn’t doing so well because of that. It was pretty common for him to come up with excuses for not taking care of his family. But can we blame him? The man was missing an arm.
He followed up with a coarse laugh.
“I was joking. I end up eating all of them whenever she makes them. They are just that good!”
I tried not to look rude by giggling a little.
“How about I buy you something to eat instead. What would you like to eat?”
“There’s no need for it. I humbly decline.”
“Are you sure? You have done so much for us..”
“It’s nothing much, I’m just letting you borrow my computer. Just make sure Mi-yeong is comfortable and if she needs anything regarding her studies, don’t hesitate to tell me.”
“Thank you so much. And don’t worry I will send her to college even if that costs me my other arm and a leg.”
“Will you leave for work soon?”
“I was getting ready to go out…But I think I will wait for Mi-Yeong to come back before heading out.”
“I see. I have set up the computer so I will be on my way now. Have a wonderful evening.”
I got up and walked towards the main door. As I glanced back I saw him put his hand over the mouse and operate it. There was a weird look of joy in his face. I smiled as I went out.
I left the alley and stopped by a small supermarket I bought a few sweets and drinks before entering a small church close to the boulevard.
There was a sticker labelled ‘Missionary’ at the church’s window. And even the sign above the church had ‘Missionary and Church’ printed on it in golden letters.
When I opened the small door, a good looking man who was cleaning the food spilt by the children greeted me. He was the pastor of the church, Phil-Mo Jang.
“Oh, if it isn’t Sanghyun! I just made Tteokbokki for the kids. Would you like some?”
“Ahh, I guess I was a bit late. I bought some snacks for the kids too.”
“It’s fine. Give them to me, I will distribute them later on. Now, how about you sit down in the main hall and have some Tteokbokki with the rest.”
I took my shoes off and went inside.
The interior was disordered since the place doubled as both a Church and Missionary, on one hand, there were children’s toys and books littering the floor and on the other, there were copies of the Bible and other books on religion and hymns neatly arranged in dark oak shelves.
And in the front of the altar, a large wooden cross was hung.
However, after so many visits. I have gotten used to the odd interior.
As I entered, I saw a woman washing plastic bowls and small forks.
“Hi. Please sit down, I will get you some Tteokbokki.”
I sit down on the chair next to a long dinner table. The lady proceeded to serve me a small plate of Tteokbokki.
“Sorry, but since the kids like ketchup, there might be a little too much ketchup in it. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Absolutely not. Thank you for the meal.”
Before she walked away, she noticed my gloved hand and asked.
“Um. Why don’t you take off your gloves? Isn’t it uncomfortable to eat while wearing those?”
“Haha. It’s just for style, It’s not that uncomfortable.”
I started eating the Tteokbokki that was served. Indeed, The ketchup had made it quite sweet.
‘-They are good people.’
Some use religion as their profession to sell out goods and deceive people. The Pastor here was different.
He took care of orphaned children and those who needed help. He cooked for them and helped them get up on their feet. He along with his wife also visited the elderly people to have conversations with them so that they wouldn’t feel lonely, listening to their grievances and prayers.
Therefore I occasionally look after them and help them out whenever possible. And the church also gives me a lot of info about the people that live around here.
Take Sang-Ho for example, he went into depression after losing his arm and became an alcoholic. His wife runs a food stand for a living. It was affecting Mi-Yeong, their daughter quite severely.
Is it that difficult to rescue people from poverty? If yes, then why so? I feel that it has something to do with dignity. One could be poor but they feel that asking for help will diminish their self-worth.
I might have a lot of money, but I cannot help them because they refuse my assistance.
I came in contact with Sang-Ho’s family through the church. The pastor had told me about how gifted Mi-Yeong was.
The girl could do wonders with a piano. Despite having no training, she could play it with skill equal to adults who have trained for years.
A true natural talent.
The only reason her talent remained unnoticed was because of their family status. Mi-Yeong’s mother was the sole breadwinner of the family and a piano is something that they can’t afford.
Now, I and Sang-Ho are good acquaintances. Mostly because both of us spent most of our time at the apartment complex and didn’t have any jobs, we gradually became friends over small talks.
The Pastor had already told Sang-Ho about Mi-ryeong’s skill but he took that as a joke. Only afterMi-ryeong played the church piano in front of him, was he truly convinced.
He might have been a no-good alcoholic but seeing his daughter’s talent, he tried to get odd jobs for her sake. He was successful at sending her to a better school where they would train her further.
Seeing all of that makes me want to help, but no matter how much I tell people that I have money, I’m still not even 20 years old, and It is self-evident that if I were to offer help to an adult, they would rarely accept because of their pride. That is why I came to use the church as my agent.
For other’s I was a “Hardworking and sincere young man” but the Pastor thought of me as “A rich young man with a story” and they accepted the money I offered after being surprised with the story wrapped around it. Although I clearly dropped a hint that I would like to know where my money was being used.
Even with an inconsistent salary, many like Sang-Ho always donate something to the church. They didn’t just blindly take it for granted. So I planned to give Mi-ryeong a piano while hiding behind the church’s name.
“How about Mi-ryeong?”
The lady pointed at Mi-ryeong and her mother eating Tteokbokki.
Another lady joined in on the conversation. She was the mother of one of Mi-ryeong’s classmates.
“The teachers at school say Mi-ryeong has a lot of potential and she has gotten out of her shell, the quiet and lonely girl now has a lot of friends.”
The lady continued,
“I have heard a few rumours that she would be taking part in an upcoming piano contest”
“Isn’t it a bit soon? She has been learning for about one month. It seems like they are rushing things.”
Sang-Ho didn’t tell me anything about it nor did the rest of his family. No matter how skilled that girl was, sending her to a contest with only a month’s formal training didn’t sit well with me.
“Is Mi-ryeong ok with this?”
“As far as I know, my son told me that she was excited to go and experience new things.”
The lady didn’t seem much pleased with my tone so I refrained myself from asking any more questions. It would be better if I asked Sang-Ho directly later.
While it is true that too much attention can spoil a child’s mind. Mi-ryeong would have to learn a lot of formalities to take part in a contest. I hope that forcing formality on an outstanding child does not limit her imagination.
If such a thing does happen, she would become the same as the children who lose their goal and direction and start moving according to the will of adults.
She would still have talent. But she won’t be the one controlling it.
“The academy seems to be rushing things with her, aren’t they?”
The lady who was washing the dishes spoke. I looked at her as she dried her hands with a towel.
“Well,…I think what you said is correct…”
“They are still young. I too think it’s better to let them do what they want to do rather than pushing them. And if she wants to do it then I will actively help her.”
Just then, Pastor Pil-mo Jang walked in.
“May I interrupt you for a second?”