Eugene Cho

in memory of james kim

james_2.jpg

when news began to spread about james kim, i had this growing suspicion that i somehow knew him.  sometimes, i make this error of thinking i know all the korean-americans.  it isn’t because of arrogance as it is to simply convey how inter-connected korean-americans are – locally, nationally, and even globally. i kept thinking that i’ve seen him somewhere; that i somehow played basketball with him orcrossed paths in san francisco.  he was 35 – a year younger than me.  as it was, the reason why he looked familiar to me was because i’ve seen him on TV on occasions on a cable program called techTV and i happen to be a recovering gadget junkie.

by now, you’ve heard the news of his tragic passing.  james kim, his wife kati, and their two small daughters, penelope and sabine, were on vacation in the pacific northwest and returning home to san francisco when  two unfortunate incidents happened:  they got lost and their car got stuck in snow in a road that is normally blocked by a locked metal gate (it unfortunately was cut open by a vandal some time earlier).  they were stranded, cold, and in the middle of the severe winter storm that we all experienced couple weeks ago.

i know that in the background of the deaths and tragedies that happen all around the world everyday, this is just one story.  yet, I can’t help but confess that i am particularly moved by this story.  perhaps, it is because there are some common  threads in our stories:  we are both korean-americans; we are both around the same age; we both live or lived in san francisco; we both wear the chunky geeky dark black glasses; we both understand the immigrant experience; and we both are married and fathers to young children.

james and his family were in the car for nine long days attempting to keep warm through a variety of different and creative ways but he eventually left his car and family to seek help.  at the water coolers at work, neighborhood cafes, and peoples’ blogs, i hear and read people questioning his senses or ‘outdoor wisdom’ of leaving the car and family behind.  folks, for goodness sakes, just stop! i don’t want to hear it.  we can all play monday morning quarterback in the comforts of our offices or in the neighbhorhood cafe surfing the web on the free wi-fi.  what he chose to do isn’t necessarily rational.  the circumstances were not rational.  as a parent, we do irrational things to demonstrate our commitment to our spouse and children. 

i did not know james kim.  but i am moved by his effort to do something to help save his wife and daughters.  today, news was released that james kim actually walked more than 16 miles (not ten as it was earlier reported) before he died trying to save his family.  one newspaper shared:

Based on what the searchers were describing, the terrain they were working in, it seems superhuman to me that he was able t cover that amount of distance given what he had, and also given that he had been nine days in a car prior to leaving it.

i did not know james kim.  but i know that he loved his wife and children and that in itself is reason to celebrate his life and his heroic effort.  thank you for your life and example. 

Filed under: asian-american, culture, family

3 Responses

  1. Blake says:

    Thank you for the touching note, Eugene. I too am very impressed and amazed by the late Mr. Kim. He was a very resourceful man and it truly is a tragedy that he didn’t survive.

    I’ve heard some people talk about it being foolish for him to leave the car, but I can honestly say that I would have done the same thing. If I have no reason to believe after 9 days that my staying in the car is going to help my family survive, I sure as heck am going to get out and go looking for that help at the risk of my life.

  2. Blake says:

    Oops… I forgot to add that I don’t see anything foolish with him getting out of the car.

    God bless his family.

  3. moni says:

    hi cho…i said the same thing…also…korean-american…do i know this guy? this family? but no, i really didn’t, but nonetheless truly touched by their story. i burn an incense and candle for James beside my father’s bc i see the kindred spirit, selfless love, commitment to family. James gave his all, and if i read the reports correctly the five miles of his footprints in the snow led the pilot down that road back to Kati and the girls. He did save them. each day they are still in my thghts and heart, and if anyone expends the energy send positive thghts of peace, light, and angels for them.

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Grateful. Still reflecting on the letters that I've received from classmates and students that have come before me and after me. Never imagined all that God would have in store for me. Lots of humbling things but in the midst of them, there were literally thousands upon thousands of daily decisions and choices to be faithful. That's what matters. Seen or unseen. Noticed or unnoticed. You do your best and sometimes you stumble and fumble along but nevertheless, seeking to be faithful.

Also, you know you're getting old when your school honors you with a Distinguished Alumni Award. Lol. 47 is the new 27. Or something like that. Here's to the next 47. In our culture, we can be so obsessed with the "spectacular" or "glamorous." The Church often engagws in thia language and paradigm...but what if God has called many of us to small, ordinary things?

Will we still be faithful?
Will we still go about such things with great love and joy?

I recently came across this picture taken by @mattylew, one of our church staff...and I started tearing up: This is my mother; in her 70s; with realities of some disabilities that make it difficult for her to stand up and sit down...but here she is on her knees and prostate in prayer. She doesn't have any social media accounts, barely knows how to use her smartphone, doesn't have a platform, hasn't written a book, doesn't have any titles in our church, isn't listed as a leader or an expert or a consultant or a guru. But she simply seeks to do her best - by God's grace - to be faithful to God. She prays for hours every day inteceding for our family, our church, and the larger world.

Even if we're not noticed or celebrated or elevated...let's be faithful. Our greatest calling as followers of Christ is to be faithful. Not spectacular. Not glamorous. Not popular. Not relevant. And not even successful in the eyes of the world.

Be faithful. Amen. #notetoself (and maybe helpful for someone else)

At times, we have to say ‘NO’ to good things to say ‘YES’ to the most important things.

We can't do it all.
Pray and choose wisely.
Then invest deeply. May our compassion not just be limited to the West or to those that look like us. Lifting up the people of Iraq, Iran, and Kurdistan in prayer after the 7.3 earthquake - including the many new friends I met on a recent trip to Iraq.

The death toll rises to over 400 and over 7,000 injured in multiple cities and hundreds of villages along the Western border with Iraq.

Lord, in your mercy... We are reminded again and again...that we are Resurrection People living in a Dark Friday world.

It's been a tough, emotional, and painful week - especially as we lament the horrible tragedy of the church shootings at Sutherland Springs. In the midst of this lament, I've been carried by the hope, beauty, and promise of our baptisms last Sunday and the raw and honest testimonies of God's mercy, love, and grace.

Indeed, God is not yet done. May we take heart for Christ has overcome the world. "Without genuine relationships with the poor, we rob them of their dignity and they become mere projects. And God did not intend for anyone to become our projects." Grateful this quote from my book, Overrated, is resonating with so many folks - individuals and  NGOs. / design by @preemptivelove

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