From Win-Lose to Sharing Happiness

by Junho (Jerry) Jiang

I met Jerry when he joined the weekly volunteer group that I (Jeff) lead to tutor and mentor recent immigrant high school students. He currently volunteers in our CVA group at Conway Opportunity Homes, where he assists adults with disability. In CVA groups, volunteers gather to reflect together after serving each week. As Jerry describes, this gives students the support they need to do some “rigorous internal thinking,” as they question the values of our society and reflect on their own lives.  Although Jerry speaks from his experience of competitiveness in Korea, we are seeing the same pressures among students in Canada.

Studying in Korean school was a stressful experience for me. In this harsh competitive atmosphere where one had to get ahead of others, I directly saw the meanness and cruelty that lie deeply in the root of a society that seems harmonious at a superficial level. I, too, attempted to win at others’ expense, and had tremendous pressure to succeed. My mind eventually collapsed, giving rise to considerable degree of anxiety. I was impacted greatly by an extremely competitive situation of “I win, you lose.” However, as I was helping and caring for others in volunteering, I was healed to a large extent. Personal anxiety gradually melted as internal pressure to succeed was taken away in a nurturing environment where there was no competition, but sharing of care. Through this experience, I understood that helping and caring for others not only benefits those who are being helped, but also benefits me in emotional and spiritual ways.

A volunteering experience that I cherish is to help out those in the wheelchair with certain disease.  My initial role was to act as a physical helper. Being unable to move their hands and legs freely, they relied on small assistances from me, such as writing down notes. Yet, these activities were felt as climbing a mountain for them. My second role was an emotional supporter. Because their life without close friends was relatively boring and gloomy, it was important for me to actively and sympathetically listen. Rather than talking and looking for solutions, I listened to their ups and lows. Moreover, they tended to be emotionally insecure and frustrated, and thus sharing their sorrow was an important role that I had taken. We sometimes watched DVD, looked at pictures of their loved ones, and read poems together. We made empowering songs together with my guitar.

In my personal life I have made many unconscious attempts at pursuing happiness and love. For instance, I have crazily fallen in love with someone, without whom my life seemed meaningless. I was also drawn into purchasing things that I thought would provide me with happiness. Strangely enough, the more I was into these objects, more I felt sad about my life. I was greatly puzzled by my depression. Through rigorous internal thinking, I realized that what society often calls love is another name for greed, and happiness that media often portrays is really only thrill. Based on this realization, I got an urge to journey for true happiness and love.