I have a warm, yellow-toned globe string light hung up on the side of the wall next to my bed. It was too bright with all of the bulbs on at once, and its main purpose is not just for hipster aesthetics, but for my room to feel cozy and like home (away from where my heart and community is, back in Long Beach). As a solution, I slightly unscrewed alternating bulbs. Now I had an on and off switch for whenever I wanted that warm and “feel-sy” ambiance.
Tonight I caught one bulb flicker, and I’m not sure how I did not notice before (I probably wasn’t paying attention, as usual) but one of the globes shone brighter with a more cool-toned white light piercing through the tiny bulb. I let it be and carried on once the flickering stopped.
An hour or so later, my room got super dark all of a sudden, and I just sat there a little confused- completely forgetting about this weird, lonesome white bulb that had flickered earlier. The one light shone brighter than the rest, so bright that the rest of the bulbs looked almost faulty.
“There’s LOTS of dirt for dirt bikes and motorcycles, and so many trees that grow apples- but not the fruit kind, the candy ones. Can there be a rainbow road with unicorns and lots of stars in the sky? Sounds beautiful!” he replied, his eyes looking afar and glowing with wonder. I chuckled.
“Ok, your turn! What’s on Planet Angela?”
“Well, how about you make it up for me?”
“Okay, hmm…probably lots of coffee!”
As you could imagine, I burst out laughing by this point. I mean come on y’all, that couldn’t have been more accurate- Planet Angela would most definitely run on coffee. I had been placing a tumbler with tea or coffee on the desk every day that I came into class for “Impacto”, a summer enrichment program for kids in the inner city of LA located in Boyle Heights that I was volunteering for in my duration as a LAUP Intern. Ernesto, a 8-year-old boy in the 2nd/3rd-grade class I was assisting for, must have noticed my tumbler when we read together and stored it in his memory.
That wasn’t the only moment he proved his spectacular memory and attention to detail. As we walked on the streets for the program’s weekly neighborhood field trips (whether to a police station, park, or library), he would tell me from the beginning the exact directions to reach our destination. While we headed back to the classroom from lunch time, he would vividly describe a funny movie scene or tell stories of his family from years prior. He was even able to digest complicated plots in the Star Wars comic book that I read with him, which was way above his reading level- and honestly, I didn’t even understand what was going on half the time.
Throughout LAUP, I learned about the complex layers of systemic injustice and how that affects people, especially low-income ethnic minority communities. In fact, it’s so deeply ingrained and complex that it feels hopeless to see any change no matter how much people shout for help and their voices to be heard, or how much they try to push and yank off the strings that are choking them. Trying to untie one string out of the many intertwined strings of a giant knotted ball still leaves an inevitably giant knotted ball. It was not the first time I heard about these issues, but being away without technology or worries of everyday life for 6 weeks really forced me to immerse into the deeper waters.
It’s one thing to hear about these messed up policies and the overwhelming, glaring statistics, but another to build relationships, hear real-life stories, and witness them yourself. Also, I did not expect to see so much of my own story in what I heard and learned- how freaking uncomfortable! I was at LAUP to learn about injustice and God’s heart, not about my own past and present hardships or pains- what the heck, Jesus?! That’s what being at LAUP was like for me, if I had to summarize it.
The partial narrative of my LAUP experience that I’m about to continue telling here is about how one boy’s life intersected with mine at the right place in the right time, and how Jesus used this to grip my heart, alter my perspective, and realign the trajectory of my future. There is no happy ending or a clear resolution to this story, but it is one that is honest and real.
For lack of a better description, I felt like a total clutz these past few weeks. In a span of 1 week, I lost both my phone and wallet.
Well, the first incident was considered a theft as my iphone was stolen from a taco place in Long Beach. It was turned off when I tried to call it, and 2 hours later the location was tracked in between East LA and Compton at 10 p.m. The person who took it clearly knew what he (or she) was doing, and it would not have been worth it to drive to a sketchy area in the middle of the night just to try to retrieve the phone. I had already made peace with what had happened within those 2 hours anyway, and while it was kind of a hassle to go through with it, everything was fine and I moved on the next day. It was actually nice to have a week of “phone fasting”.
Now, losing my wallet on the other hand was a different story. I was on the bus back from work, sleep deprived and apparently too distracted by looking out the window at the busy street construction before I got off on my stop. An hour later, I realized it was missing and the only place I could have lost it was on the bus. I was panicked due to some money I received from my parents the night before for rent, as well as irreplaceable important documents I had in there. I wondered how I could have been so clumsy and given this was the “theme” of the week after the phone incident, the guilt felt even stronger. The story for this one ends better though. The 4th bus driver opened his door at the bus stop I waited at and greeted me with a smile saying “Yes, I know exactly why you’re here!” and handed me my wallet. This could have easily been stolen too instead of being turned in.
With both incidents, no real damage was done. However, as I was shaken with worry from the second event, I knew these things didn’t occur out of coincidence. Perhaps it was a lesson to always put my belongings in a zipped pocket or bag, but it had to be more than that…
“I squatted in the dark backyard and pondered upon my life- past, present, and what could be the future. A feeling of dismay and distraught washed over me just as I turned around. I saw that what used to be a field of lively pink and yellow flowers in the summer time were now nowhere to be seen. What’s left were dried up patches of grass and broken, fallen stems.
There wasn’t even one glimpse of hope in sight.
I closed my eyes and lifted up a quiet, desperate prayer for the hope that seemed lost in the moment. As I prayed, I remembered that God has been faithful in the past, bringing light to places of tremendous darkness in my family. Every dry season, I come back to this place of looking and focusing on what seems dead, forgetting that Jesus loves my family just as much as I do. The Lord is good, He is always by my side- why do I worry? Why do I lose hope, slip up, store up anguish and anxiety in my heart, and not trust in Jesus when these seasons come?
I am reminded that God never changes, and He is what I need to fix my gaze upon when I feel like I am lost.
That night, I read. He spoke hope over me. I slept reassured again, holding on to hope that is unseen but eternally trustworthy.”
“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.” -Psalm 145:13-19
Yep I said it- social anxiety. I am not using this word lightly, nor do I want to undermine the experiences of anyone who has/had the disorder. Rather, I would like to ask you to read this in the lens of me being vulnerable in sharing my own personal story with the intent to make space for more honest conversations about mental illness and the stigmas surrounding it.
In our day and people-pleasing culture, we spend a tremendous amount of energy to try to”fit in”-to be sociable, interesting, likable, and relatable. Perhaps you are extra blessed and could care less about what people think of you (not trying to act “idgaf”, but actually dgaf), excel naturally at socializing, feel confident wherever you go with whoever you meet, and find complete peace and happiness in who you are. Shoot, the old me would have loved to be you instead (okay…maybe even now). Regardless of if you’re another victim to people-pleasing like me or if this is not a general concern for you, it is innately engraved in our human heart and mind to harbor the desire to be accepted by others (“fit in”) and have a place to feel belonging. Somehow, these two desires got skewed and synonymous to one another, when in fact they are quite the opposite.
At this moment, I can call myself a very “social” person and most people would agree with me. I am naturally very relational, strongly value close relationships I can deeply connect with, and have decent interpersonal skills.
Okay, get to the point-So why is someone like you, then, talking about this particular subject matter?