The crisp, cold, spring air crept through the tiny holes of my woven sweater. It was March. I heard a sudden outburst of excitement from outside. I peeked through the glass window and saw a swarm of kids running excitedly to the playground. A couple of boys spread out their arms as sleet fell from the sky, softly landing on their heads like white little pellets. I was entranced. It was my first snowy experience.
As I watched the children play, my mind caught on the question my father asked me back in 1996. “How about becoming a teacher?” I was at a crossroad trying to choose a career path that would help determine my future. It was a hard decision to make. My father followed that question with a story about one of his school teachers who refused to get married until all of her siblings could finish college. The school teacher helped her parents educate and support all four siblings until they graduated. She was an excellent teacher, he said. It was obvious his teacher left a good impression on him. “Oh, I would love to be a teacher, but being in a classroom full of super active kids scares me,” I said. My father replied “Trust me, you’re going to do great! Being a teacher is a noble profession. You will make a big difference in childrens’ lives.” It must have been the last sentence that convinced me because 4 years after that conversation, I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. I was set to “make a difference in childrens’ lives” — to be as inspiring as my father’s school teacher.
During my first year of teaching, I almost gave up in the middle of the school year. I loved being a teacher but it was tough. I cried, “Pa, I can’t do this anymore!” I envisioned a different scenario but things were not as I thought they would be. I considered trying something else. Maybe go on an adventure? When the opportunity arose to go overseas as a missionary, I grabbed the chance. The training took two months and the board of directors decided to send me to South Korea. New language, new place, I was ecstatic. The flight there was the smoothest I had ever been on and I was determined everything would be okay. It was early morning when I was dropped off at a building and was ushered into a classroom full of empty chairs and a large chalkboard.
While I was deep in my thoughts, a gentleman in his 60’s came inside the room. He gave me a traditional bow and greeted me in a sweet Korean accent, “Hi, Helen. I am Mr. Cho. Welcome to South Korea. This is your classroom.” In that instant, I no longer felt the cold air and I forgot about the snow. I gathered my thoughts and simply said, “I am ready.” I was there to “make a difference” and that’s what I should do. I laughed aloud as it dawned on me…I tried to escape from teaching, but instead I planted myself exactly in that position. I finally realized that trying to run away from one’s true calling will only lead you back. Again and again and again.