Prayer of Saint Francis

Prayer of Saint Francis
Where there is hatred, let me sow love and, where there is darkness, let me bring light.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Small Acts of Kindness and How They Grow

My great grandfather was a lawyer and missionary for the Methodist Church. He spent much of his life traveling the world, settling the estates of church members and spreading the word of God. My grandfather, who was born in Singapore and raised in the Philippines, arrived in Southern California in his thirties and refused to leave. He said that Santa Ana was the best place in the world to live and he wasn’t going anywhere else.

But his father was a traveler. He was 6’4” and had chalk-white hair. His appearance was striking and sometimes natives got confused in the translation from English to Tagalog and thought he was God. One of my most cherished family photos is of him sitting in a very tall tree surrounded by people that were much darker and shorter than he was. He looked much happier being among the natives than he ever did at home.

My great grandfather took responsibility for building many churches, including the Chinese Methodist Church in Los Angles. I got goose bumps when last summer, my uncle showed me the Chinese Church website that gave credit to my great grandfather for his honorable contribution. I am sure he had no idea there would ever be a thing called the World Wide Web or that his name would ever appear on it.

And I’m sure he had no idea that even his simplest acts of kindness would have a major, world-wide impact. While watching the Olympics of 2012, my mother told me a story I had not heard before. She said that many decades ago, my great grandfather sponsored a family with the surname Lee so that they could come to America for a better life. She has a vivid memory of having the couple and their son, Sammy, visit her family home on Flower Street           

Sammy was named after my great grandfather, Rev. Dr. Samuel Ernest Lyons. Last summer, Sammy was featured in news stories on television and the Internet. He had grown up to win a gold medal in platform diving at the Olympics of 1948, and another in the summer Olympics of 1962. He was the first Korean-American to ever win a gold medal and at 52, was the oldest diver to ever win Olympic gold.

After competing in the Olympics, Sammy studied medicine at the University of Southern California, served in the U.S. Army medical corps during the Korean War, and then practiced ear, nose, and throat medicine in Santa Ana. No doubt he healed hundreds of people who went on to live productive lives. But perhaps his most valuable work during those years was coaching Greg Louganis.

When real estate agents subsequently refused to sell him and his wife a home in Garden Grove because of their race, Sammy told the Associated Press, “This doesn’t hurt me, it hurts my country.” He then vowed to fight discrimination.

I will never have the opportunity to meet my great grandfather because he died several years before I was born in 1958. But his simple acts have allowed me to get to know him and what he stood for. And as my spirituality grows at Harmony Grove Spiritualist Church, I hope to use his small acts of kindness to inspire some of my own.


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