my parents were hard-working immigrants from korea. my father worked two jobs at a time, while my mother sewed clothes and worked at a taco stand. eventually, my father would become partially paralyzed from a massive stroke. my mother became functionally deaf from an illness, and my oldest brother suffered from severe brain damage due to a childhood illness. there were periods when i lived on the streets, and i eventually ended up at the covenant house homeless youth shelter. i was nourished, loved and tenderly cared for by the staff at covenant house. my family is comprised of amazing people, and i was able to graduate from harvard university with a doctorate and two masters degrees. i juggled my studies at harvard while working part-time and caring for three severely disabled adults.
my family has taught me the value of sacrifice and tenacity while the covenant house homeless youth shelter has taught me what love can do in a broken life. living on the streets can mar or destroy you as a child, but hope can erupt in the most unlikely places. i have learned to be content and still in whatever circumstance, and to stay grounded in gratitude as a way to channel interior strength in the midst of hardships. for me, the term “amazing grace” is multi-faceted and implies that we can find sufficient grace in every storm, simply by yielding to the love within and around us. being homeless did not break me; it opened me to an experience that is tragically far too common and prepared me for the great work of moving towards authenticity, courage and magnificent, unabashed hope.