Leaving Your Mark

As woodworkers it’s often said, it’s important to leave our mark on what we create. Scott Phillips of the American Woodshop is a big advocate of telling people to sign their work. It makes sense. We are creating a thing that will last a lifetime, if not multiple lifetimes. So we should be signing our work for not only the people currently around us but for future generations. I would have to say, I completely agree with Scott in that advice. But in this case, I am talking about leaving our mark in a different way.

Leaving our mark should be more than signing something we created. We should be leaving our mark in this world. We can’t always change major issues in the world. There will always be poverty and impoverished parts in any country that we just won’t be able to help. But we can change things on a smaller level and leave our mark on someone. 

One person who taught me this is HanSung Kim. Han is a man who doesn’t say much, but he does have a lot to share. Knowing when to not speak is a great lesson in itself. To not say much means he does a lot of listening. When we listen we are slow to react to a situation. We are also showing the other person we care about their feelings. However, when he does say something, it is either very wise and profound, or it is downright funny! Either way, it is always worth waiting for.

Han took me to places in nature and to places where people lived and believed different things from myself. It caused me to get out of my comfort zone and realize that people and their beliefs can be different and yet they can still be good-hearted people. We still had the same common values of love, peace, and goodwill to fellow people.

Han is a master at bonsai trees. He has hundreds of them. They were amazingly beautiful and yet so delicate. It would take years for one to be shaped into the position Han wanted it. As he put it,” It was a constant fight between the sculptor and the tree. The tree wants to grow and reach out in its own direction. The sculptor has to slowly redirect the tree to the new shape without harming the tree.” His patience and vision with each tree was a great lesson for me.

I realized that reaching a goal or changing something in our lives is not a fast process but a slow one. And a vision of the direction must be clear in our head in order to be able to achieve it. 

The best lesson I learned from Han was giving. Whenever I am around him I have to be careful to not say, “Oh I like that.” If I did, Han was sure to give it or buy it for me. His pleasure is seeing other people happy. He always seems to put other people first and himself second. Perhaps it is because he was such a content person. He never wants much or thinks too highly of himself.

The reason I got to know Han so well was he gave me the greatest gift a man could ever want. He gave me permission to marry his daughter. Over the last 22 years, Han and I became very close. I see him as my real father and not a father in law. Sadly, HanSung Kim died this year on Feb 6th, 2020. He will certainly be missed and will not be forgotten. Han may not have been wealthy or powerful, but he was a kind, wise, and humble man. And in my opinion, that made him rich.

Han left his mark on my soul and I will forever be grateful for that. My only wish is I can do the same for others as Han did for me.

Goodbye, father. 

Your loving son,