Charity for Those Less Fortunate

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Charity for Those Less Fortunate

"Fruit of Love" Badges Help the Needy in Our Society

Although 90 years have passed since the Titanic went down in the icy waters of the Atlantic, the story of the tragedy still holds grips on our collective imagination. Why is that? It was a question raised in my mind after watching the blockbuster movie about the disaster by director James Cameron. I concluded that the movie is something of a metaphor for the courses of our lives. The Titanic went down in a matter of several hours. The tragic scene to determine who would live and who would die formed the moral and ethical core of the story.

As was evident in the story of the Titanic, the first class passengers as well as the third class passengers were destined altogether to meet the fate of life or death. When the ship slowly sank in the cold water, there was no way for some of the first class passengers to board the lifeboats.

The story of the Titanic can help us understand our society. All of us are aboard on the same boat - a community. We at least need the bond of trust to lead our boat in the right direction without sinking. I believe the bond of trust, that will keep our society together, is our love and efforts to share the joy and sorrow of our needy neighbors.

The chance to come to the aid of my neighbors came to me recently. Although my parents have taught me to contribute to our society and be never selfish, I kept postponing helping others with the excuse that I was busy.

That changed when I began volunteering at a help-your-neighbor campaign held in Myeongdong in December 1999. At the time, the Community Chest of Korea offered me the position of honorary goodwill ambassador. First, I thought it was too much of a burden, but changed my mind soon after realizing that I was no different from those first class passengers on the Titanic. From then on, I volunteered in many activities sponsored by the Community Chest of Korea, helping the needy neighbors. When I played the role of a woman drafted as a sex slave by the Japanese army in a TV drama about 10 years ago, I tried to starve my self for a few days to experience the feeling of the unfortunate woman and the pain of hunger.

Members of the Community Chest of Korea told me that helping the needy neighbors in Korea has never been a natural part of our daily lives. They told me that most of the campaigns are nothing more than superficial displays of charity put on during the winter season. The conditions in other countries, especially the United States, are extremely different than ours. Most of U.S. households volunteer at more than one social welfare institution, and contribute donations. The number of volunteers exceeds 100 million and the amount of charity raised is about 600,000 won ($497) per citizen in the United States.

Let us look at ourselves. There are many aspects that we have to reconsider and improve. There are many people who hope to help the needy, but hesitate to do so since they are not accustomed to it. Cold winds blow on the street and the last leaves on the tree produces a desolate scene in our city. In the forlorn winter streets, holiday songs flow on top of the curled up shoulders of people, and the lights on Christmas trees twinkle at every corner.

The "fruit of love" badges, worn by many people on the street, were also presented to the presidential couple at the Blue House early this month. Those badges are sold by the Community Chest of Korea at a small price, and the profit is used to help needy neighbors.

It is now time to turn our attention to the needy. We should guarantee the minimum of safety and hope to the 150,000 children and 220,000 elderly going without food. That is the only way to guide our boat - our community - to reach the destination safely. I believe that everyone should buy a "fruit of love" badge. It will benefit our society by gathering the small contributions together to restore hope to those less fortunate than ourselves.

The writer is an actress and Honorary Ambassador of the Community Chest of Korea.

by Chae Si-ra

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