This trip to Korea with the Holt Christmas Gift Team is always a wonderfully uplifting, emotional trip that is a roller coaster ride of tears, laughter and smiles. Yesterday was no exception. Yesterday we visited Holt’s Ilsan Town. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Ilsan; 50 years ago Harry Holt and David Kim began building a community on a hillside north of Seoul that would house children waiting to be adopted as well as those who were, most likely, not adoptable. Today it is home to almost 300 mentally and physically handicapped residents who live in group homes, go to school, work, establish relationships – basically live a real life. Our team’s arrival is always the source of much excitement and joy as we bring, and receive, Christmas joy. (see my entry, Folks This is Why I do This)
Yesterday we visited the newly remodeled Memorial Hall where exhibits tell the story of Harry and Bertha Holt and their mission to find families for the world’s orphaned children. I know the story. I’ve read about it, watched videos about it. I’d been to the “old” Memorial Hall, but yesterday’s visit hit my emotional button hard. I barely made it through the door before the tears starting flowing. The pictures of children in need; the story of one man who gave of himself beyond what most of us can even comprehend; the woman who became Grandma to thousands of children – the words, the images filled my heart and, yes, I cried.
The visit ended with a trip into the workshop area where residents do piece work for local businesses. This employment gives the residents purpose, experience and spending money. As we walked down the window-lined hallway we could see people working on their projects, chatting with their co-workers and, when they saw us, there were often enthusiastic waves and smiles. We went into the large room at the end of the hall and three young women, all apparently with Downs Syndrome, came up to us to shake hands, smile, hug and talk. One young woman, who actually spoke a little English, even showed us how she does her job and, when one of our team members tried to emulate her task, she quickly made it clear that he was not doing it properly. As we prepared to leave, one of the three women came to give me another hug. Then another one came and the three of us hugged. Finally, the third woman came over and we had a full-blown group hug – what we call a family hug. It felt wonderful!
As I walked out of the building I realized that I’d started the morning with tears – tears that washed my face and cleansed my spirit, and I’d ended the day with one of the best hugs of my life – both my face and my spirit glowed.