By Rev. Joe Kim

I remember coming home from school and bursting into tears.

I was in kindergarten and Woodward Elementary School was just across the street. Every morning, my father and I would walk to school where he would drop me off and make the same trip back home again every afternoon.

It wasn’t a long walk, but on that day, it felt like miles.

Rev. Joe Kim

I remember walking into the house, unable to keep my emotions in check, unable to keep my tears from flooding. I remember telling my parents that I wanted to wear sunglasses to school from that day forward – sunglasses that would hide my eyes, sunglasses that would hide my differences, sunglasses that would hide my Asian-American identity and prevent the other kids from making fun of me.

That was the first day that I knew I was different, but it surely wasn’t the last.

I grew up embarrassed to invite friends over my house, for fear of insulting their culture by asking them to take off their shoes or for risk of not being liked because of the food we ate…

I saw my slanted eyes mirrored in the faces of my White peers, imitated by the simple pulling of the ends of their eyes – up for Chinese, down for Japanese…

I heard what I think was supposed to be words in some arbitrary Asian language tossed my way, and I sat in the expectant silence that followed as they waited for me to respond…

I felt the chops and kicks of people who “knew Kung Fu” and wanted to teach me how it was done…

“Go back to where you came from” was a common conversation starter – and conversation killer – often shouted at me from the passing of a car or in the hallways of the schools I attended…

It saddens me that the world of my childhood is one that my son will also grow into, that he would grow up in a world where his racial, ethnic and cultural identity is not celebrated, but rather ostracized for the differences in our power, and privilege, driven world.

While it’s easy to forget – or choose to forget – that another world is possible; while it’s easy to focus on the hurt that we inflict upon each other and the hate that we carry towards one another…

I remember especially this weekend the life and legacy of Dr. King and the Beloved Community.

“For Dr. King, The Beloved Community was not a lofty utopian goal to be confused with the rapturous image of the Peaceable Kingdom, in which lions and lambs coexist in idyllic harmony. Rather, The Beloved Community was for him a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence.

Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict.”

From “The King Philosophy” via The King Center

As we remember and honor the life of Dr. King and his tireless work for justice, may we be challenged to live more fully into the life we have been called to live – to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8) – and may our lives reflect the Beloved Community today, tomorrow, Monday and beyond.

Joe Kim serves as a pastor to the people of Bothell United Methodist Church in Bothell, Washington. 

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