I don’t so much choose what to write about as my subjects choose me. A lot of the time that means I end up writing about really grim stuff. Not today.
Today, a lovely feel-good story grabbed me by the arms and wouldn’t let go. It was a trailer for a movie called The Drop Box and the minute I watched it, I knew I had to write about it.
The Drop Box is the story of the Give Out Love Orphanage in Nangok; a rough, blue-collar neighborhood in Seoul, South Korea. Baby abandonment is common here and hundreds of unwanted infants are abandoned to their deaths each year. Pastor Lee Jong-rak thought to save at least some of them and to that end he set up a drop box where people might leave their unwanted babies.
"The Drop Box" - Documentary PROMO from Arbella Studios on Vimeo.
The pastor wasn’t sure anyone would follow through, but a slow steady stream of babies began to arrive, some with their umbilical cords still attached. The babies came with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and a host of other physical and mental deformities. Thirty-two babies have been dropped off since the drop box was set up in 2009, though “just” 21 are in residence today. Each baby gets an enormous amount of love from the Pastor, his wife, and the devoted volunteers who offer their time at the orphanage.
But not everyone is happy.
The child welfare people got wind of the orphanage after seeing a television special. They say there are too many people living in this four-bedroom residence. They say that conditions are sanitary. They say the anonymity of the drop box encourages child abandonment and robs the children of knowing their biological parents.
In an interview with the LA Times, an orphanage volunteer, Peter A. Dietrich said, “Rather than look at what he can bring, they focus on what he doesn’t have. The enormity of [Pastor Lee Jong-rak‘s] mission hits you between the eyes. I don’t know anyone who goes there for the first time and doesn’t tear up.”
I concur. There’s so much wrong with the world and here is one man, at least, who is trying to right some of those wrongs. It’s a little like bailing out a boat with a teaspoon. But it’s something.
It’s that same something that had me claw my way into a job at a nonprofit that provides mentoring services for children. I’ve earned my living by writing for the past decade, but until I took the job at Kars for Kids, I didn’t feel my writing made a difference. Now I do.
I love reading the success stories of the children we help. The letters come on a daily basis through interoffice mail, from grateful parents and from the children themselves. We give these children a way to steady themselves as they make their way through childhood and on into adulthood. We get them through with a lot of love.
And love is an international language, understood by all, whether in an orphanage in Seoul, or at a summer camp in Upstate New York. I’m proud to be on the same side as Lee Jong-rak: on the side of love, bailing out the world, one teaspoon at a time.