Saturday, December 26, 2015

Donate Pads!

Now that it's the holiday season, people may be feeling generous and want to do good. Some may want to donate hygiene products to a local homeless shelter, which is a good idea. Homeless shelters could always use items like soap, toothbrushes, or toothpaste.

But I remember something I learned last year from Kaitlin Beck and students with Law Students for Reproductive Justice. They had conducted a donation drive for an important item that is often overlooked in donations. They were collecting feminine hygiene products (pads and tampons) to provide for homeless women.

Truth be told, I wouldn't have thought about how homeless women would need feminine hygiene products. I don't know much about menstruation and the daily realities that women face. Yet there is no doubt that safe and sanitary products are necessary for all women. Moreover, such products allow homeless women to maintain a sense of dignity in circumstances that leave them feeling displaced or invisible.

Donors may be reluctant to donate feminine hygiene products because of a sense of shame or discomfort regarding menstruation. People feel weird talking about it. As a consequence, the needs of homeless women for these products goes unmet.

So if you plan to donate an item to a local homeless shelter, consider asking if the shelter needs feminine hygiene products. You could really help meet a need.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve 2015

It's Christmas Eve. For some people, this is a day of deep religious significance, full of hope and meaning. For other people, it is a day of fun and festivity, of warmth and delight. But for most people, this is a season for family and gathering and connection.

I was musing about the timing of winter holidays. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, winter holidays come at a strange time. Snow and cold weather make travel difficult. The early nighttimes are conducive to contemplation and solitude. Yet for many, this time is the biggest season for travel and merry-making. Perhaps ancient people saw how natural cycles shape their tendency to isolate, and started traditions to highlight togetherness and community. We made it through another year! Let's celebrate. Together.

This is a season for family. For some people, that is a source of joy and thanksgiving. For others, it is a source of tension, anger, and anxiety. For still others, it is a source of loneliness and grief. As much as we may share jolly greetings and mirth with each other, let us also recognize that this is a hard time for some people.

So, Merry Christmas to all who celebrate Christ. Let us remember the wondrous gift that we have received. Let us proclaim the good news of the reconciliation of God and humanity. Let us reflect on and reflect out the goodness of God.

And Merry Christmas to all who will receive this greeting, of all faith persuasions. May this season be a time for what is needed: joy in its proper time, and sorrow in its proper time. Laughter and tears, words and silence.

And for those who would rather not receive a Merry Christmas greeting; still, a greeting of peace for you. May this season produce peace both within you and through you to others. May this peace overcome paranoia, hatred, and indifference.

May this be a time for all of us to grow in charity and care for each other. To celebrate each other and how we have grown through this year. Also, there's pie, since nothing says celebration like simple carbohydrates. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Responding to brokenness with love

I've had a couple people comment on my recent Facebook post regarding my response to the hookup scene in Master of None. I've appreciated the thoughtful comments. I recognize that some of my peers hold different opinions regarding sexuality than I do, and look forward to learning more from others. Some of my response is based on a lack of familiarity with this topic, so I enjoy hearing from others.

I also recognize that my response is based on a specific theology regarding sexuality. At some point, I would like to share my perspective on this topic, as I hope that it would be helpful to understand the perspective of myself and others of my theological community.

However, I know that some individuals have been deeply hurt by Christians in this area of their lives. Individuals who have been excoriated, ridiculed, even threatened by people of faith. Individuals who see Christians not as people of mercy and love, but as people of judgment and hatred. Please note that I can only speak to the response of Christians; I cannot claim to speak about individuals' experiences with people of other religions.

But I remember the stories of Jesus in the Gospels. I remember the story of him caring for a young woman who had had multiple husbands, and was living with a man who was not her husband. I remember the story of him receiving the adoration of a woman living in sin, as she washed his feet with her tears and anointed them with oil. I remember his mercy for a woman caught in adultery.

To be clear, Jesus did not compromise on his virtues. He told these women that what they were doing was wrong, that the paths they had chosen were paths of sin, not paths to life and fulfillment. But Jesus did not wield his virtues as a hammer to shape people to be worthy of his love. His love shaped transformation in their lives, so that they submitted to his virtues. His kindness led them to repentance. He called them to change, not so that they could earn his love, but through his love.

Now, I know some may say that a casual sexual hookup is not a sinful act. That is a theological point that merits serious discussion, and I may touch on that in another post. For now, I will simply say that Jesus referred to sin as sickness. He responded to sickness with compassion and care, not hatred and alienation. I pray that I become a person to whom broken people can turn for healing and restoration. I pray that I do not react to brokenness out of fear and ignorance, but with a desire for understanding and patience. I pray that I carry my beliefs not as a weapon, but as an invitation into something wonderful.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


One other moment from the first episode of "Master of None" caught my attention. In the very first scene, Dev—the main character—is having sex with a woman when his condom breaks. Concerned that she might get pregnant, he calls an Uber (UberX, not Uber BLACK), and they go to a pharmacy to pick up a birth control pill. The Uber drops the woman off at her apartment. Dev and the woman end the night by saying, "Well, it was nice meeting you. Let's keep in touch."

I imagine that this is a perfectly ordinary scene, one that many of my peers have experienced. What struck me was the casual nature of the encounter. As Dev himself said, in describing how the Plan B pill helped him avoid a potential crisis, "So now two people that barely know each other won't be raising a human child together."

I suppose this is part of what is called the hook-up culture? I really don't know. I've only gone on one date in my life, and that was back in 2011. There's a lot about dating and romance in the modern age that I don't understand. I had heard about people hooking up, but it was interesting to see an example play out on screen.

I don't mean any judgment or condemnation in my words. People will do what they will. I just note how I approach relationships differently. For my own part, I was raised was to approach relationship with care and consideration. I want to treat relationships delicately, because they are powerful. In thinking about the woman I want to date, I want to make sure to treat her with respect, honor, and kindness. This is not to say that a casual hook-up can't provide these attributes, but it doesn't seem particularly conducive to do so.

Some of this approach stems from my Korean upbringing. Some of it stems from my faith tradition—I have been extolled to "Treat your potential date as the daughter of the King." But also, I believe that a relationship will not be the complete answer for my insecurity and loneliness. A romantic relationship is important, of course, but I can't rely on it to provide me with total fulfillment. That is too much burden to cast on one person.

Anyway, the show is fun and I'll probably watch another episode. Maybe I'll learn more interesting things about my generation!

Friday, December 18, 2015


Lindsey Moriguchi recommended that I check out "Master of None", the Netflix show starring Aziz Ansari of Parks and Recreation. In the first episode, Dev (played by Ansari) contemplates whether he would want to have kids. The show makes clear that children can be a mixed blessing. They can be wonderful, sweet, and life-giving. They can also be selfish, messy, and draining. Children are good, but just like other good things, require work.

This past week, I got to witness a unique expression of the joy of parenthood. I went to a concert by Judith Hill, a powerful and soulful singer (thanks Teressa for letting me join!) Judith's parents met while playing in a funk band. In fact, her parents were backing for her at the concert: Robert Hill was on bass and Michiko Hill on keyboard. I could clearly see how proud they were of their daughter. I imagined them saying "We know that Judith is amazing. Now other people get to see how amazing she is."

But this isn't to say that I would need to be a talented performing artist who sang with Michael Jackson to have my parents' love. My mom once said to me, "I know that if you or Dale got into a car accident and become paralyzed or can't talk or do anything, I would still be proud to be your mom, because I know how wonderful you are."

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A story about Japanese internment

I remember a conversation I had with a friend about the internment camps for Japanese people during World War II. My friend is Japanese-American. Her family has lived in the US for generations. Her grandmother was living in California when the Japanese army bombed Pearl Harbor. Her grandmother's family was taken to a camp somewhere in the desert. They left their house, which her great-grandfather had worked so hard to buy. They left their clothes, their possessions, their business. When the war ended and they returned home, everything was gone. Before the internment, her grandmother's family had a decent living. Now everything was taken from them. Even now, decades later, her grandmother still harbors some bitterness toward the U.S. government for what it did.

Could something like this happen again? I hope not. But as a Korean American, I wonder. What if North Korea declares war on the U.S.? Would I and other Korean Americans face terrible consequences? Would my family be forced to give up our home, our possessions, our community?

Some would say that such a situation would never happen, since South Korea is such a strong ally of the U.S. I certainly hope that is true.

Speaking of allies, the U.S. has strong connections with countries in South and Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia, India, and Bangladesh. These countries are important economic and diplomatic partners with the U.S. They are also the countries with the largest Muslim populations in the world. I wonder what would happen if the U.S. were to block Muslims from coming here. I can't imagine the Indonesian government would be happy that we banned 204 million of its citizens from visiting the U.S.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Final exams

Last Friday, I met up with a law school friend for lunch. As we waited for another friend to join us, we chatted a bit about the weekend. Then he said "So how many finals do you have?"

I paused, then said "You know what? Let's talk about something else. People ask that question all the time during finals. I know what they really mean is 'How stressed out are you?' The number of finals is meant as a measure for stress and work. But that's not interesting to me. Let's talk about something interesting. What are you looking forward to for winter break?"

We then had a lovely conversation about his plans to visit his brother-in-law in Texas.

It's finals week right now, and people are working hard. Some are stressing out. Finals is on everyone's minds. There's no need to stress each other out more.

So if you ask me "How many finals do you have?" I will probably say "Let's talk about something interesting. What's one thing you learned from the class? What surprised you? What are you hoping for during winter break?"

Saturday, November 28, 2015


Watching old episodes of Whose Line is it Anyway has got me thinking about puns:
For Weird Newscasters:
"Welcome to the 6 o'clock news. I'm your anchor, Nat Flixandchill."

"I am your anchor, Owen Sdayswewearpink."
"I am your anchor, Gunter Theinfluence."
"I am your anchor, Carl Themenshorses."
"Our top story: Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky took part in an unorthodox fundraiser this weekend. The Majority Leader of the Senate was bobbing for orange peels in a barrel of pickle juice when he fell in. Although the senator was drenched, he managed to collect all the peels the barrel. As one eyewitness put it, the Mitch in brine saved rinds."
For Greatest Hits:
"We'll be right back with our broadcast of the annual President Reagan impersonation contest, America's Next Top Ronald, in just a second."

And more!

An artist in Burlington decided to create a life size replica of Vermont Senator and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders using hundreds of pieces of bathroom linoleum. After collecting the linoleum into a pile, the artist started snipping into them with a pair of scissors. When asked what she was doing, she simply replied "A Bernie of a thousand tiles begins with a single snip."

In Madrid today, dozens of people competed in the annual speech contest to win
a priceless Ming Dynasty urn. In the end, the contest organizers gave the prize for a speech given by Baldur Bronstad, a husky Norwegian lumberjack. When asked why his speech won, the organizers simply said, "The burly word gets the urn."

"Welcome to the 6 o'clock news. I am your anchor, Cam Overhereandgivemesomesuga.

Our top story tonight: Kermit the Frog was spotted downtown at a charity event, decorating a giant float made in his likeness entirely out of small beans. Unfortunately, the charity had brought brown beans, not green, and the famous amphibian was taking time to paint each bean the proper color. When asked for comment, Kermit simply shrugged and said, "It's not easy greening beans."

Psalm 55

Psalm 55.

What I appreciate about the psalms is that they are filled with a complex range of human emotions. The psalms contain joy, honor, peace, discipline, fear, anger, disappointment, sadness. The psalms remind us of the fullness of human life.

In this psalm, the psalmist declares his horror and deep distress. He has been betrayed by his friend:

"Now it is not an enemy who insults me—
otherwise I could bear it;
it is not a foe who rises up against me—
otherwise I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man who is my peer,
my companion and good friend!
We used to have close fellowship;
we walked with the crowd into the house of God."

The psalmist responds to his friend's betrayal by calling on God to vindicate him:

"God, You will bring them down
to the Pit of destruction;
men of bloodshed and treachery
will not live out half their days.
But I will trust in You."

I am fortunate enough to say that I have not experienced this sort of distress. I have not been betrayed in this way by a friend. But I can only imagine the heartache and anger the psalmist feels. His call for justice is understandable.

But I am also mindful of another who was betrayed. One of his followers gave him over to death. His friends abandoned him in his hour of need. One of his closest companions disavowed any connection to him. He was brought down to the Pit of destruction.

But he did not call for vengeance. He did not call for bloodshed. His own blood was spilled, so that he could bring reconciliation to all. He embraced his friends. He did not name them in their weakness, but called them into strength.

May that same spirit of forgiveness animate my life.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Psalm 54

Psalm 54:

"Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.
He will return the evil to my enemies; in your faithfulness put an end to them."

Who are my enemies? I don't seem to have any enmity between myself and others. I'm a nice guy. Who are my enemies?

My enemies are those that oppose me. For the only person without enemies is the person that isn't fighting for anything. If I fight for those I love, my enemies are those that wish to harm those I love.

Poverty is my enemy. Hopelessness is my enemy. Addiction is my enemy. My enemy is the poverty that robs communities of vitality. My enemy is the hopelessness that spurs young people to violence. My enemy is the addiction that corrupts the soul and decays the mind.

There may be people who set themselves up to be my enemies. There may be people who insult me, who despise me, who wish to do me harm. But people are not my enemies. Humans are not my enemies. For the Lord saw those who poured insult, derision, and violence, and saw the true evil behind their actions. He loved them, for He knew that they were not His enemies.

To love is to protect. To protect is to fight. To fight is to believe that a better world is possible.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Reflection on Thanksgiving and History

I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with friends here in Chicago. I had a lovely time of delicious food and good company. I am glad for the reminder to be grateful for the many wonderful gifts that I have. I am thankful for friends, for family, for purpose, for health, for community.
But I am also mindful of the troubled history behind this day. Thanksgiving remains intimately connected with the colonial history of the United States, a history that includes violence perpetrated against native peoples. I know people of Native American descent who refuse to celebrate Thanksgiving, due to the terrible history embodied in this day.
What I find striking is my own selective understanding about Thanksgiving. In some ways, I embrace my place as a part of the United States. I am grateful for the freedoms and opportunities this country has provided me. But when I consider the tragic moments in my country's history, I find that I place distance between the country and myself. "My family came to this country in 1986! We don't have any connection to what happened all those centuries ago!"
But if I am a part of this country, if I take part in the many blessings offered here, then I believe that I have a responsibility to its history. I have a responsibility to listen to those whose voices are not heard, to challenge injustices that remain in place, and to stand with those cast aside. I have a responsibility to rise above demonizing and shaming, and to call for thanksgiving at its proper time and lament at its proper time.
With that in mind, I would like to share this perspective on Thanksgiving from Mark Charles, a man of Navajo descent (h/t Marc Robinson). Here is an excerpt:
"Being Native American and living in the United States, it feels like our Native communities are an old grandmother who has a very large and very beautiful house. Years ago some people came into our house and locked us upstairs in the bedroom. Today our house is full of people. They’re sitting on our furniture, they're eating our food, they're having a party in our house. They've since come upstairs and unlocked the door to our bedroom but it's much later; we're tired, we're old, we're weak and we're sick, so we can't or we don't come out. But the thing that hurts us the most, the thing that causes us the most pain is that virtually nobody from this party ever comes upstairs, seeks out the grandmother in the bedroom, sits down next to her on the bed, takes her hand and simply says thank you. Thank you for letting us be in your house."

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

History Lesson

Last week, I attended the first session of a seminar on Slavery and its Aftermaths. This seminar is hosted by Professors Abebe and Huq, and our group of 12 students met in Professor Huq's home in Ukrainian Village. We were discussing a recent historical account of slavery in the United States, Inhuman Bondage by David Brion Davis.

We started the seminar by sharing what got us interested in the topic. One student mentioned that she had grown up hearing stories about slavery. People in her family had been enslaved, and those stories have carried on to her generation. She also mentioned that the version of slavery she learned in high school history class seemed sanitized compared to the stories that she heard.

Her comment got me thinking about how little connection my family has to the history of slavery in the U.S. My parents came to this country in 1986. No one in my family has any personal connection to the Atlantic slave trade, the Civil War, or Reconstruction. I did not grow up hearing those stories.

Furthermore, growing up in California, the history of slavery in the U.S. seemed somewhat removed. Of course, California has its own history of slavery, including the subjugation of indigenous peoples. Yet "U.S. Slavery" came across as something that happened in a distant time in a distant part of the country.

I wonder how this disconnection relates to how people in my community see the United States. Most Koreans (particularly of older generations) seem to see the U.S. in a positive light as protector and guardian. They view the U.S. through the lens of the Korean War, in which the U.S. supported the South Korean government. Certainly, there are difficult aspects of the U.S.–South Korea relationship, especially regarding the presence of the U.S. military in South Korea. Furthermore, I would be foolish to believe that all Koreans hold such a sanguine view of the U.S. However, my community lacks the same collective memory of injustice that my classmate described.

What I've learned from this experience is my need for humility. Because of my family history, I am prone to see the U.S. in a more positive light than my classmate would. I don't think this is a difference in factual knowledge; I doubt that gathering more facts on slavery would change my disposition to the U.S., just as my classmate would likely not change her view in gathering more facts about the U.S.–South Korea relationship. But there is a difference between factual and personal knowledge. I must be humble and remember that other people have their own histories and their own perspectives.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Thoughts from the Second City

Several weeks ago, I went to a Second City show with my friend Joseph Matthew Cancino​. Second City is an improv comedy group in Chicago, which has been the launchpad of some of the top names in comedy (like Tina Fey or Stephen Colbert.) The show we attended was a combination of improv and sketch comedy.

One sketch stood out in particular. It was set in a synagogue. A rabbi stood at the front, introducing a Christian missionary couple who were about to come up to say hello. Suddenly, the couple burst on stage, wearing bright curly blonde wigs, with a boisterous cry of, "Hellllloooo, Jews!!!" The couple started declaring how much they loved the Jews, "even though they only got half the Bible right." They then broke into a catchy song and dance number. It was a hoot.

But as I was watching, I started thinking about the Christians that I know. Truth is, I don't know any Christians that look or talk like this couple. The performance was a caricature, of course, but a caricature of someone foreign to me. The majority of the Christians I know have last names like Fong, or Lee, or Nguyen. Some of the Christians I know struggle with reconciling following God—which includes sacrifice and humility—with honoring their parents—who often demand strict obedience and economic stability. Some of the Christians I know struggle with the fact that they are the only Christians in their family, and in some cases the first Christians in their family's entire history.

The Second City sketch depicted a caricature, one that may be familiar with the Midwestern audience in attendance. There were other such sketches too, including a sharp one in which a young boy reminisced over his "Summer for Jesus," which started with picketing an abortion clinic and climaxed with setting fire to a mosque. I suppose the main thing I took away from the show was how my experience of what Christianity looks like is different from a mainstream American perspective.

One other thing stood out. The night that we went was a farewell night for one of the performers, John. He was leaving for Hollywood. He had played a pivotal role in the show, writing several sketches, including the two I mentioned above. At the end, after several cast members expressed their deep gratitude and appreciation, John came up to speak. He had prepare a few comments to read. He spent some time thanking his family, the members of the Second City cast and crew, and various mentors. Near the end, he started thanking his partner for his support and encouragement. As John spoke, he started tearing up, and said that after many years of busy late nights and time away, they would finally be able to go on dates and spend quality time together. Then  John said "And God...", he paused, turned the paper over, and said "He's not on here." I suspect that there's a great deal of history present in those short words.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Future plans

It's November. In just about eight months, I will stride through Rockefeller Chapel for my graduation ceremony. Some friends have asked what I plan to do after I finish my JD. Although nothing is set in stone, here is my plan:

I intend to work with a civil rights law firm in San Francisco, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, on a 1-2 year fellowship. My project will work to reduce barriers to housing for people with criminal records. Individuals leaving correctional control face difficulties in securing access to safe, decent, and affordable housing. According to the California state government, in large cities like San Francisco or Los Angeles, 30% to 50% of people on parole are homeless. Homelessness leads to greater risks of recidivism and re-incarceration.

I was drawn to this project because of its intersection of housing and criminal reentry. I developed an appreciation for housing through my experiences with the National Housing Law Project​ and LAF​'s Housing Practice Group, as well as the Housing Initiative Clinic at school. Housing touches on every aspect of a person's life, and is a foundational need for all people. People in insecure housing remain at risky jobs or in dangerous relationships for fear of becoming homeless. In fact, I have experienced firsthand a different kind of housing insecurity. My family was in Northridge during the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and I remember the strain on my family as we struggled with trying to find a place to live.

I became interested in criminal reentry from my summer at Christian Legal Aid of Los Angeles​. As part of the internship, I read "Tattoos on the Heart" by Gregory Boyle. Father Greg is a Jesuit priest who has worked in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. He focuses on formerly gang-involved or incarcerated youth who wish to leave the path of violence for a path of hope. I was moved by Father Greg's description of the expansive compassion of God for all people, particularly those people that society demonizes as monsters or savages. I had the privilege of serving several clients at Father Greg's organization, Homeboy Industries​. The work is not glamorous; it is difficult, painful, and arduous, but filled with great beauty.

Right now, I am waiting to hear back from various foundations to provide funding for my project. If I don't get the funding, then I will not have a job, and will need to figure out a backup plan. I will confess that it is difficult to wait, particularly as so many of my classmates already have their jobs lined up with big private firms. But their stories are different from mine, and so all that I can do now is wait and pray.

Monday, October 19, 2015

3L Year

My model of 3L life is Michael Lanahan​. Michael was a 3L when I was a 1L. Typically, 3Ls are not as engaged with life at the school (#3LOL). But Michael was very much involved. He was deeply invested in several student organizations, such as the Federalist Society, the Christian Legal Society, and the Law School Musical. He gave a great deal of time to the IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship, helping small businesses thrive. I knew that when I started 3L year, I didn't want to sit back and disengage. I wanted to stay involved and make the most of this opportunity.

Well, it's 3L year now. Besides schoolwork, I am the President of the Chicago Law Foundation, I will start pro bono work with the International Refugee Assistance Project, I have a part-time job with Themis Bar Review and as a library research assistant, I am applying to postgrad public interest opportunities, and I am fairly involved with my church. Never a dull moment, to be sure, but I am happy to have a full 3L year. This year is going to fly by, and I want to make good use of the time.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

My Ideal Death

"What is your ideal death?"

That is one of the questions in a book I am reading for my social work class on dying. It's not a matter to which I have dedicated much thought. I can hardly plan a month in advance, let alone the end of my life. But the truth is that there is no guarantee that my life would extend past next month.

The author of the book describes some of the responses she has received to this question. Some say they want to die with friends and family by their side. Others want to be alone. Some want to be in their bedrooms or living rooms. Others want to be out in nature. Very few want their last days to be in a hospital or nursing home, although many of us will end up there.

What do you want to be the last image you see before you die? The face of a loved one? A familiar book? A beautiful forest? Certainly most would rather it not be the flickering of a hospital fluorescent light or a tangled mass of plastic tubing, half-filled with drained abdominal fluid.

My ideal death would be quiet. I would like to be near the window, with the sunlight shining. I would like to have my family there, maybe a few friends, but not a big crowd. I would want to be at home, not at a hospital or nursing home. Mostly, I would want to be lucid. Physical pain is OK, to a point, but I would hate to be unable to communicate or interact with the outside world.

When I tell folks that I am taking a class on death, some of them become uncomfortable and say it must be depressing. There is certainly a somberness to death, and even a horror. Dying is never pretty. But it is a certainty. I want to approach it ready, in control of what I can control, able to make my own choices. Death may be an uninvited and even unwelcome guest, but let me at least be ready to meet him.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Dying, Death and Loss

Something I enjoy about 3L year is taking classes outside the law school. I appreciate the opportunity to take courses in different disciplines. For example, right now I am taking a class at the Social Work school. The class is titled "Dying, Death and Loss." The teacher is a former hospice social worker.

Our most recent class was on the death experience. We saw a fascinating film, 203 Days, which depicts the last days in the life of a woman named Sarah. At the start, we see her as a healthy and vigorous woman, who takes great care in her appearance. We don't know what has afflicted her, but it is clear that she has a terminal condition. Over time, she becomes thinner and weaker. She grows more unable to care for herself. Sarah's daughter has taken her in and cares for her, but eventually is unable to do so. Sarah is transferred to a nursing home. In her last days, she is hardly responsive, and passes in silence.

I enrolled in this class because I plan to work directly with people in poverty, and death will be near to many of my clients. This past summer, a woman came in asking for help. She was facing eviction for allegedly not paying her rent. She was concerned about ending up homeless, but even more concerned about how the eviction would affect her family situation. She had two children who are now in foster care. They had been taken from her because there had been a fire in her previous apartment, a fire that she did not cause. The landlord had neglected to install a smoke alarm. That same fire also killed her baby daughter.

What can I say in that situation? I am not a social worker or a minister. My focus is on the legal task of helping her keep her home. And yet, there is grace in sitting with her in her grief, letting her know that she need not experience her sadness alone.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Physical Therapy - Taking care of myself

I've shared before about my mom's concern about how law school will affect me physically. She said "I'm afraid that you'll get stressed out, eat unhealthy food, get fat, get diabetes, never get married, and die."

Luckily, none of that has happened, but school has affected my back. I've been going to physical therapy appointments these past few weeks for persistent back pain. Hours of sitting in a chair reading casebooks exacerbated mobility problems. The pain is minor, but I want to address it before it gets worse.

I've seen the health concerns of others escalate until they become big problems. I've seen people struggle with gout, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. I don't want that to happen to me. I want to take care of issues that come up before they become bigger problems.

I believe that I have the opportunity to do great things and impact people's lives in a positive way. I want to take care of myself so that I can continue to live well and serve others fully.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Why Do I Write?

Why do I write what I write?

Some of it is to help others. Many people have said that my Facebook statuses have helped them. Gabriela Eva told me that my writings got her through 1L year. My brother, Dale told me that I put into words what many people feel. Jane Cho told me the same thing.

I write to inspire others to write honest and courageous writings. I am inspired by what Michael Ishigaki and John Knox and Yi Ning write. In a website full of carefully crafted selfies and curated experiences, it is refreshing to have writing that is true and grounded and faithful.

But I also write for myself. My natural inclination is to choose what to show others, and so show the strong and competent and interesting parts of myself. But I'm not always strong and competent and interesting. Sometimes I feel weak and stupid and lonely. My natural inclination is to hide those parts away. But as Tim White said to me: deeply charitable love embraces me not in spite of my weakness, but embraces my weakness because it is part of me. A mother looks at her son and does not love her son in spite of his weakness; she embraces him, weakness and all. She helps him realize that what he thought was his weakness is his strength. For weakness is strength misdirected, strength unchanneled, strength frustrated.

I am prone to forget these things. I am prone to linger on my failings, how I feel weak and stupid and lonely. Thank goodness for the grace of God, whose vision of me matters more than my vision of myself. What I am learning is to have that same vision of grace for others, to see them as deeply loved.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

New EpiPen

It's a new season now. I have an EpiPen. An EpiPen, or epinephrine autoinjector, is a device that quickly administers a dose of epinephrine. It is an emergency treatment for anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction.

I got this EpiPen because I told my doctor about my allergy to cats. When I was 9 years old, I was at my piano teacher's house. I would go to piano lessons with two friends, and we would take turns getting lessons. I was sitting in the backyard waiting my turn, petting the calico cat, Tiger. Tiger looked at me, and a drop of saliva dripped from her mouth onto my leg. Immediately, my eyes swelled and my throat tightened up. I could hardly see and couldn't breathe. I ran into the house, and my teacher had me sit down and drink some water. After a few minutes, it went away. That was the most severe allergic reaction I've ever had; nothing like that has happened since.

I occasionally visit friends who own cats, and I'm generally fine. If I spent too much time there, I can feel my eyes itching and breathing becomes more difficult. I try to avoid cats for this reason, although I've even petted cats with no problem.

What comes to mind with this EpiPen is that it is a tangible reminder that I could very easily die. In my case, it is pretty easy to avoid cats. I have friends who carry EpiPens for severe nut or shellfish allergies. The EpiPen is meant to save my life in case of an unfortunate feline encounter, but it is also a physical totem of my fragile mortality. If the cat doesn't get me, something will. Somehow, it's oddly comforting; having a physical item that reminds me of death makes it less abstract, and thus less removed.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Why I want to be a lawyer

Yesterday was the last day of my summer internship at LAF. LAF is a large legal services provider in Chicago. The attorneys there provide legal representation to indigent clients who cannot afford any other help.

LAF is separated into different practice groups, such as Children and Family or Immigrant and Workers' Rights. I was in the Housing Practice Group. My group represented tenants facing eviction, termination of housing assistance (e.g. Section 8 vouchers), and denial of assistance. Some of my clients were on disability. Some worked minimum wage jobs. Some couldn't work because of health issues. All were terrified about becoming homeless.

My clients have experienced great hardship. One stopped working because she had had a miscarriage and was dealing with health issues. One didn't pay his rent because he needed to help pay a family member's rent, who had been living in a homeless shelter for six months. One had been denied housing assistance because a criminal background check showed that he had a pending arrest. Turns out, that background check was inaccurate.

As hard as it was to work on these cases, it reminded me why I came to law school. Some of my classmates love thinking deeply about legal doctrine. They read court opinions for fun, argue about policy and jurisprudence, tinker with the intersections of law and other disciplines. That's all wonderful, and I am grateful to be at such an academically vibrant school. But that's not why I am here. I am here because I want to use what I know to help others. Not to speak for them, for they are capable of speaking for themselves, but lending my voice to theirs so that they will be heard.

I may never reach the pinnacle of my profession. I may never become partner in a major law firm, argue before the US Supreme Court, become a widely regarded legal academic. I may never make a lot of money (my starting salary out of law school will probably be $50,000; my classmates going into major law firms will start at $160,000, a level that I will probably never achieve in my whole career.) That's OK. They have their own stories to live, and I have mine.

3L starts Monday. Looking forward to a good year.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Two questions

As I've been meeting more incoming students, I am mindful of how start a conversation with them. Initial conversations can be awkward, but they don't have to be, and I'm glad to welcome people into conversation.

I regularly listen to the NPR quiz show "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!" Whenever a caller comes on, the host, Peter Sagal, asks two questions. These are the questions that I like to use: (1) "Where are you calling from?" and (2) "What do you do there?"

Now, these may seem standard questions, but what I appreciate is how Sagal follows up on them. He doesn't just accept the answer as a piece of information, but uses it to continue to draw the caller into a friendly space.


Sagal: "Hi, you're on Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!"

Caller: "Hi, Peter! This is Pam!"

Sagal: "Hey, Pam, thanks for joining us! Where are you calling from?"

Caller: "I'm calling from Santa Barbara, California."

Sagal: "Oh, beautiful Santa Barbara! That's what people not in LA think LA is actually like. How is it out there?"

Caller: "Gorgeous."

Sagal: "I bet it is. What do you do there?"

Caller: "I'm a high school teacher."

Sagal: "Oh, neat. What do you teach?"

Caller: "9th grade English."

Sagal: "Oh, I bet that's got to be fun. How do you like it?"

Caller: "Well, it's great. It's given me lots of experience answering silly questions, so I'm all prepared for this game."

Sagal: "Ha! I bet!"


So in this exchange, it wasn't just about learning that Pam is a 9th grade English teacher in Santa Barbara. The follow up questions were meant to dig into her experience in that area. They open up new avenues of conversation. Yes, this is small talk, but small talk opens the door for deeper connection. It's always good to get practice with small talk.