Being a Friend to All

Once I set my mind to do something, I have to put it into action immediately. Otherwise, I cannot sleep. As a child, I would sometimes get an idea during the night, but be forced to wait until morning before acting on it. i would stay awake and make scratches on the wall to pass the time. This happened so often that i would almost dig a hole in the wall and chunks of dirt would pile up on the floor. i also couldn't sleep if I had been treated unfairly during the day. In such a case, i would get out of bed during the night, go to the culprit's home and challenge him to come out and fight me. I am sure it must have been very difficult for my parents to raise me.

In particular, I could not stand to see someone treated unjustly. Whenever there was a fight among the children in the village, I would involve myself, as though I were responsible to see that justice was served in every situation. I would decide which child in the fight was in the wrong, and I would scold that child in a loud voice* Once, I went to see the grandfather of a boy who was a bully in the neighborhood. I said, Grandfather, your grandson has done this and that wrong thing. Please

take care of it" Normally, it would not be my place to tell an elder how to discipline his grandchild.

I could be wild in my actions, but nevertheless I was a child with a big heart. I often liked to lull myself to sleep by squeezing the empty breasts of my grandmother, and my grandmother never stopped me from this childish foolishness. i would sometimes visit my married older sister in the home of her husband's family, and demand that they serve me rice cakes and chicken. The adults never disliked me for this, because they could see that my heart was filled with a warm love.

i was particularly good at taking care of animals. When birds made a nest in a tree in front of our house, i dug a small waterhole for them to drink water. I also scattered some hulled millet from the storeroom on the ground so for the birds to eat. At first, the birds would fly away whenever someone came close. They soon realized, however, that the person giving them food was someone who loved them, and they stopped flying away when I approached.

Once, I thought I would try raising fish. So I caught some fish and put them in the waterhole. I also took a fistful of fish food and sprinkled it over the water. When I got up the next morning, though, I found that all the fish had died during the night I was so looking forward to raising those fish. I stood there in astonishment, looking at them floating on top of the water. J remember I cried all day that day.

My father kept many bee hives. He would take a large hive box, and .fasten a basic foundation for a hive to the bottom. Then the bees would deposit their beeswax there to create a nest and store their honey. I was a curious child, and I wanted to see just how the bees built the hive. So I stuck my face into the middle of the hive and got myself stung severely by the bees. My face swelled up so much it looked like one of the straw mats we would sit on.

I once took the foundations from the hive boxes, and received a severe scolding from my father. Once the bees had finished building their hives, my father would take the foundations and stack them to one side. These foundations were covered with beeswax, and that could be used as fuel for lamps in place of oil. I took those expensive foundations, broke them up, and took them to homes that couldn't afford to buy oil for their lamps. It was an act of kindness, but I had done it without my father's permission and so I was harshly reprimanded.

This is something that happened when I was twelve. We had very little in the way of games then. The choices were a Parcheesi-like game called yute, a chess-like game called jang-gi, and card games that involved gambling.

I always enjoyed it when many people would play together. During the day, I would like to play yute or fly my kite, and in the evenings I would make the rounds of the card games going on around the village. It was a game where the winner picked up 120 won after each hand, and I could usually win at least once every three hands. New Year's Eve and the first full moon of the new year were the days when the most gambling went on. On those days, the police would look the other way and never arrest anyone for gambling. I went to where grown-ups were gambling, took a nap during the night and got them to deal me in for just three hands in the early morning, just as they were about to call it quits for the night. I took the money I had won, bought some starch syrup, and took it around to all my friends to give them each a taste. I didn't use the money for myself or to do anything bad. When my older sisters' husbands visited our home, I would ask permission and take money from their wallets. I would then use this money to buy sweets for children in need. I also bought them starch syrup.

In any village, it is natural that there are people who live well, and those who don't. When I would see a child who had brought boiled millet to school for lunch, I couldn't eat my own lunch of rice. So I would exchange my rice for his millet I felt closer to the children from poor families than to those from rich families, and I wanted somehow to see to it that they didn't go hungry. This was a kind of game that I enjoyed most of all. I was still a child, but I felt that I wanted to be a friend to everyone. In fact, I wanted to be more than just friends; I wanted to have relationships where we could share our deepest hearts.

One of my uncles was a greedy man. His family owned a melon patch near the middle of the village, and every summer, when the melons were ripe and giving off a tasty fragrance, the village children would beg him to let them eat some. My uncle, though, set up a tent on the road next to the melon patch and sat there keeping guard, refusing to share even a single melon.

One day, I went to him and asked, "Uncle, would it be alright if some time I were to go to your patch and eat all the melon I want?" Uncle willingly answered, "Sure, that would be fine."

So I sent word to all the children that anyone wanting to eat melon should bring a burlap bag and gather in front of my house at midnight. At midnight, I led them to my uncle's melon patch and told them, "I want all of you to pick a row of melons, and don't worry about anything." The children shouted with joy and ran into the melon patch. It took only a few minutes for several rows of melons to be picked clean. That night, the hungry children of the village sat in a clover field and ate melons until their stomachs almost burst.

The next day, there was big trouble. I went to my uncle's home, and it was in pandemonium, like a beehive that had been poked. "You rascal," my uncle shouted at me. "Was this your doing?! Are you the one who ruined my entire year's work raising melons?"

No matter what he said, I was not going to back down.

"Uncle," I said, "don't you remember? You told me I could eat all the melons I wanted. The village children wanted to eat melons, and their desire was my desire. Was it right for me to give them a melon each, or should I absolutely not have given them any?"

When he heard this, my uncle said, "Alright. You're right." That was the end of his anger.