A matter of perspective
Close call has international intern reflecting on the here and now.

By A-reum Song

editor's NOTE:

The Rodale Institute interns take turns tracking their observations and sharing what they are learning as they help out the various departments here at The Rodale Institute.

This next generation of farmers offers insights into what motivates them to go against the tide when so many farm families struggle to keep up-and-coming generations interested in farming.

--NF Editors

October 18, 2007: I was in a car accident last month. I can joke about it now, but seriously, I almost died in my car. I live out in the countryside and there is a bridge that crosses a small creek on the driveway up to the house. The bridge is so small that normally I don’t even pay attention to it as I pass over it every single day.

One morning-it was a rainy and gloomy day- as I left home to go to work I was in a hurry because I was late. I brought a slice of bread with me to eat in the car on the road. A short second after driving from my home my car was flipped upside down under that small bridge down into the creek.

I had hit the brake pedal as I tried to pick my bread up that I dropped, but I didn’t slow down enough so that my car slid slightly into the bank next to the bridge. Suddenly one of the front wheels went off the side of the bridge so my car was tilted and it flipped upside down, down into the creek. It all happened in a flash.

Water started coming into the car immediately, my head was upside down in the bottom of the creek, I was scared and I couldn’t breathe. Fortunately I could calm down enough for a moment so that I could think of what to do. I thought to myself, “This creek is not that deep so I can get out of here; unbuckle the seatbelt and open the door.” I was very lucky the door opened easily so I could get out.

That accident shook me up a lot. I thought about how I have had lots of bad luck since I have been here in the United States. I thought to myself, I want to go back home—to South Korea—as soon as possible because I almost died in a foreign country and I lost my car.

At first, living without a car in the United States seemed like it would be impossible for me, and I thought that I would not be able to go anywhere I wanted to go without a car. I thought I wouldn’t be able to do anything or go anywhere special besides work and home. I came here for a special experience and wanted to make the most of it if possible.

Everyone consoled me for the misfortune I had, but I felt like no one really knew my feelings because they did not actually go through what I had been through. I was saying to everyone “I’m OK,” but I really wasn’t OK. I had been seriously considering going back home soon.

However, one day I was looking at my smashed car—I hadn’t looked at the car after the accident, even though it was sitting in my yard, because I didn’t want to feel the upset of the accident again—and all of a sudden the realization came to me that I had survived a car accident which had smashed my car terribly. I could easily have drowned, yet I was still alive.

I had heard before from my coworkers and friends, they said “A-reum, you are so lucky! Look at your car! I can not believe that you are OK with nothing wrong, only a small scratch on your shoulder!" They said “God saved you. Thank God for saving you,” yet I had not come to that realization until reflecting upon my smashed-up car. It was like a delayed reaction for me. After realizing the most important thing—that I am alive—I was back to normal. In addition, I found a new appreciation for many things. For instance, many people did many things for me: Sam made hot tea and took care of my car even though he had an appointment that day. Chris’s father sent his tow truck driver over for me. My mom prayed for me for three hours. Lala gave me the medicines to sleep well. Chris gave me a ride every morning to get to work. Natalie listened to my fears with a concerned ear and told me I should just think about myself now, not others. Dave gave me a big hug when I came back to work. My fellow Korean churchgoers are giving me a ride to go to church every Sunday. Paul offered to let me stay in his house while he travels on a Fulbright Scholarship (he lives close to work, so now I can walk).

Lots of friends called to make sure that I was OK, even from Korea. All of my fellow employees worried about me and gave me solace. Even the dogs in my house were trying to make me feel better. My plants in my garden are growing well for me. The sun is shiny, the breeze is nice. The trees are changing color. I had been missing out on many things because I was concentrating on that terrible accident; I could not see the other side when I was in this state of mind. It does not mean that those appreciated things did not exist there but rather I just couldn’t see them. These things were all present at the same time that I was thinking about my misfortune. I was overwhelmed and my thoughts about my accident clouded my ability to see and appreciate the other good things that were happening in my life.

I am not going to go back home to South Korea earlier than I thought. I have decided to stay here with the many nice and kind people I am fortunate to be surrounded with and everything is going well for me. Bygone days are important and the future is also important, but the most important thing in our lives is where we are now! I almost forgot this important thing. That was the reason I came here, to see what is going on in the field every day, every minute, and to learn from this new experience.

Mentally I was still stuck in the creek—while my body got out in a moment, my mind was still stuck there. I think it was harder to take my mind out of the creek than my body. Think about this comparison for life: The creek that I had my accident in was not that deep, but because I was upside down I had almost died. Mentally this is true also: If we have an upside-down perspective about things in our lives, we are mentally dead, even though the challenges may not be that deep. This could be more dangerous because our upside-down perspective may not be as obvious to us as being literally upside-down in a car. Yes, I survived and I am alive, therefore I have to learn more about life.

Now I am finishing my journal. I hope that you and I will not miss the opportunity to appreciate the many things surrounding us in our lives because of mistakes we made from bygone days or because of too much concern about the future. Please, feel happy that we are alive now!