I want to tell you about two average people who overcame unbelievable challenges to lead happy and fulfilling lives.
Myeong Hee’s Story
In the summer of 2013, I met Myeong Hee, a woman who escaped from North Korea. Her father was killed for the food he was trying to bring to his family and her mother died from cancer because there was no medical care available. She and her sister faced the choice of staying in North Korea and almost certain death from starvation or trying to escape and possibly getting killed in the process. They made three attempts to escape, finally succeeding on the last one. Her sister fell into the grip of human traffickers in China and was forced into marriage. They had no contact with each other for nine years, until they were finally able to reconnect.
Today, Myeong Hee and her sister are citizens of South Korea, and she is in the United States as part of a Korean American exchange program. She is a very positive, upbeat, kind, and happy person who’s a delight to be around.
Manchung Ho was a child, living in the Chinese city of Guangzhou and studying the violin when Chairman Mao instituted the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In 1971, during the peak of the anti-Soviet period, China had enacted a motion to move all untrustworthy Communist people out of the city, which was called the Dispersion Act. Manchung and his family were forced to leave their home in Guangzhou and move to their ancestral village, even though no one from their family had lived there for three generations. In the village, there were no teachers available, so Manchung had to stop playing music. He and his siblings were expected to work the farms after school. Three years later, the communist party realized the policy was a mistake and Manchung’s family was called back to the city of Guangzhou. Manchung was able to play the violin again for propaganda programs in high school. Although he resumed studying violin, his teachers were reluctant to teach standard Western repertoire because it was considered a capitalist art form.
After a decade, the disastrous experiment called the Cultural Revolution ended and Manchung and his family moved to Hong Kong. Manchung started his formal musical education in his mid-20s, which is considered a late start for a musician.
Manchung later came to the United States to attend graduate school, studying violin performance. Today, he is a successful music teacher and professional musician.
I’ve known Manchung for sixteen years. He could have allowed his experiences during the Cultural Revolution to ruin the rest of his life through bitterness and resentment. Instead, he is philosophical about his experience. He certainly could be bitter, but he’s not. He is always happy, positive, upbeat, and hopeful about the future.
Never Forget, But…
He reminded me in a recent conversation that he must never forget what happened during the Cultural Revolution, but he refuses to allow it to define who he is today and in the future.
Did something happen to you in the past that still haunts you today? Do you feel anger or bitterness about what happened? When we permit it, anger, bitterness, and resentment can hold us in a crushing grip, hijacking our lives to no positive end.
The Effect of Anger
The cruel paradox is that anger, bitterness, and resentment hurt only the person harboring those feelings and the friends and family members close to him or her. They have no effect on the people from the past who may have caused us pain or difficulty.
It’s a choice. Can you let go of anger, bitterness, and resentment to allow yourself a life of happiness and hope?
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