Blessings in disguise
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) made the point: ``What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”
In 1965, my father flatly refused to pay for my college tuition if I applied to art school, which was what I wanted to do at the time. He had to pay for nine children’s college education, and it was understandable that he didn’t want to stretch his financial resources even further to pay for art supplies (or so he said).
It was quite disappointing for me at the time, but as a girl from a provincial town I knew I was lucky even being allowed to attend college. Nowadays in a much more liberated world, girls are given almost the same opportunities as boys, but that was far from the case back then.
So, as my father wished, I entered Ewha Womans University and majored in English literature. I became editor of the school English newspaper and later on, having acquired a great love of books from my college major, I was able to obtain a graduate degree in Library Science from Simmons College in Boston.
My initial artistic desire was crushed, to my bitter disappointment, but fortunately studying a different subject opened wide a door that has become a great blessing to me. I now have greater mastery of language. Daily I am thankful I can use English to tap into the global treasure chest of knowledge. The biggest blessing was meeting my future husband because of my study of English and journalism in college. What I once thought was terrible has become a blessing for me. A blessing in disguise, indeed.
Another example of blessings in disguise is the story of Chuck Colson (born 1931), former Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973, who supposedly boasted that he would run over his own grandmother to re-elect Nixon. He was one of the Watergate Seven who went to prison for his attempt to defame Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg. While in prison, he converted to Christianity.
Upon his release, Colson founded a prison ministry called the Prison Fellowship, the world’s largest outreach program to prisoners and ex-prisoners, which for the past 35 years has been involved in inmate visitations, mentoring, inmate family support, and sharing the good news of Christ as well as advocating the reform of penal system. His autobiographical book ``Born Again” was one of the nation’s best-selling books of all genres in 1976. Now the Prison Fellowship is carrying out its ministry in 113 countries around the globe. His conviction was a blessing in disguise for him, and for others as well.
In October, 2003, eight representatives of the Global Children’s Foundation charity organization were invited to North Korea to monitor the delivery of aid items for children we sent up there via the Eugene Bell Foundation. After a four-day visit we were at the Pyongyang airport to board a plane for Beijing on our return trip home.
Unfortunately, the plane was indefinitely delayed due to heavy fog in Beijing. As we settled into our uncomfortable seats for an unspecified duration, most of our party were talking to each other. But I noticed Ms. Sung taking out a book and proceeding to read in the corner. She was one of three delegates representing a sister organization in Seoul, but due to my determination not to talk much while I was in Pyongyang, I didn’t get to know her any better.
However, noticing her with a book changed everything. I was instantly piqued with curiosity ― she seemed to be a real book worm and just my type. And when I glanced at the title, I was surprised to see that she was reading a book that I had read myself not too long before.
We began to chat and wound up talking for the rest of our airport delay in Pyongyang about every topic under the sun. When I returned to Hong Kong, a delightful email from her was waiting for me. For the next 18 months we exchanged emails and books. Then we moved to Seoul, and I was delighted to be able to spend years together in the same city!
She is now my soul mate, a kindred spirit, co-conspirator in charity work and my very best friend. I am so glad there was a thick fog in Beijing that delayed our departure! That worrisome wait became one of the greatest blessings in my life!
Negative events can often turn into blessings if we allow ourselves to see the silver lining of the dark clouds. In our daily living, when we encounter discouraging circumstances, we may instruct our mind to look for the possible positive side.
Last year my right arm started giving me lots of pain so I had to give up the tennis that I had enjoyed for more than 30 years. Somehow by God’s grace, I found a painting group nearby, and that’s where I am twice a week instead of on my beloved tennis courts. I am thankful I can switch to painting. My lifelong desire to be an artist may finally be happening now.
May our lives be filled with many incidents that turn out to be ‘blessings in disguise!’
Hyon O'Brien is a former reference librarian now living in the United States. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.