“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
—John F. Kennedy
As people’s resentful, blaming, indignant remarks on politicians rushes through my ears, this particular quote from Kennedy’s speech unfolds itself from the long-forgotten corner of my memory.
We are living in the world where being served and being privileged are proper and even just. We all wait for someone to do something for us. We all need someone to blame, find fault in, and to look down upon. We want the world to go around us, continuously checking what others could do for us rather than thinking what we could do for others.
This has become a culture: the more you look down, the more popular you are; the more you find faults in others, the more perfect you seem to be. Finding faults has become a trend. In every school, we see “cooler” kids bullying those who are considered to be “stupid.” We see groups of friends gathered around in clusters, gossiping and giggling about others. Whenever we listen to the gossips, it’s all about what the speaker has to say about the others, what they have wronged against himself. It’s never about what the speaker can do to reconcile the broken relationship nor what the speaker has done wrong to incite the fight.
We see this in our daily lives, allowing gossiping and bullying to become so natural and so embedded in our social lives. We do not try to find good in others; we just never try. All we care for is our well-being and ourselves being loved. When we don’t get what we want, our bitterness transforms into a malevolent beast, crushing anyone we wish to blame for our failures.
Of course, not all are like this; there are millions of selfless people, caring for others before themselves, always giving up their own good and comfort, humbling themselves, and continuously asking what they can contribute to this world. But I find it necessary for all of us to take a moment to look back on ourselves and our actions. Have we not all caused more harm than good?
As I grew older, I began to reflect on my history, events that have formed my identity. I cannot say that I had been living a selfless life. I was a perfect pest, always looking for attention and chances to repel, fight, argue, punch, cry, or any other mischievous thing you can think of. My younger sister was the object to look down and trample on. I thought she was always thinking of “rebellion,” never trying to do anything for me. Whenever my sister found a safe place to nibble on her well-earned chocolate, I would snatch her sweet from her, taking it right into my mouth. She would cry, and I would slap her for crying, threatening her not to tell anyone about my robbery. I never realized that it was me who couldn’t show proper love to her. I never realized that it was me who never tried to do anything for her but deprive every rights from her (my sister could not get anything I could not get; I would take it away from her if she did). Yet, the more I indulged on the thought that she was a mean girl, the firmer this misled idea became. Now that I have grown, I feel insurmountable pain whenever I think of the hardships I have inflicted on my sister. Had I been less selfish, asking what I could do for her rather than asking her to do something for me, she and I would have been happier.
Yet, as sisters, it is not like we never had good days. We were, and still are, best buddies. On rainy days, we used to flatten boxes for each other, sharing a single umbrella, sitting underneath it. We then would grab our favorite dolls and pretend to be the mothers of our dolls. We cuddled together, telling amusing stories to each other, making jokes, laughing. On sunny days, we used to go out to a hill nearby our house, following the easy trail, looking out for bunnies, and running around together playing tags. On gloomy days, we were each other’s confident, telling each other everything. But despite all these good memories, I always regret that I couldn’t show her more love.
By looking back on my memories, I realized this one thing: when I tried to quench my own thirst, I got thirstier, eventually leaving an extenuating scar on my throat. But when I let go of my selfishness, I learned how to quench my thirst even without drinking.
Jessica Moonjung Choe
Cobham Hall Independent School
Jessica Moonjung Choe email@example.com
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