As I've mentioned, my grandfather was an agriculturist. We spent a lot of time in our garden. I remember watching him plant a seed of corn. Each day, I would visit the garden to see if that seed had sprouted yet. Just as a seed needs sun, water, soil and air to bloom, your courage depends on your relationships with people.
Courage is laugh when the odds are against, to say "I can do this!" when others say you cannot. Courage is to lend a hand to a friend when you are the one who needs help. Remind yourself how much courage it took to be where you are today, and feel grateful for everything you have done—and will do!
I consider my Russian-Korean grandmother to be the most courageous person in my life. She was accepted to the Institute of Pedagogy in Vladivostok in September 1936, and she majored in Korean literature. She was a talented woman who could be anything she desired and hoped for. But her dreams were shattered in the fall of 1937, when Stalin ordered the forceful deportation of nearly 200,000 Koreans from Sakhalin Island (directly north of Japan) into Central Asia. Stalin was getting ready for what would become World War II.
My grandmother does not remember the day of her wedding, but she remembers the day of deportation as if it was yesterday. It was midnight, and she could hear the rattle of the wheels and the patter of rain on the roof of the train as she and others were taken away from their homes. Sick people were pushed off the trains, and no one buried them if they died. She called those trains "ghost trains."
Thousands, including children, perished from starvation, disease, and the effects of cold weather. All of them were left destitute. The survivors of the deportation are heroes—they were ordinary people, but they survived in extraordinary times. My grandmother, White Pearl, is one of the survivors of this deportation, and was only 22 years old at that time. The deportation was her lesson in overcoming adversity. She believes that adversity builds strength and character—and she has plenty of both.
Being successful today requires the same qualities that my grandmother taught me: perseverance, passion, faith, a burning desire to succeed, attitude, and a good sense of humor.