This story originally appeared in the spring/summer 2015 issue of The Bulletin.
“I am often uncomfortable. The moment 30 people walk into our front door – people I have never met – I am expected to greet them, grab their coats, welcome them into the living room, introduce myself, speak to their children, converse with and listen to them, and make sure that they are comfortable in all ways. This is what I have been trained to do over the past 10 years by my father, Joon Park, who often holds large gatherings for work and church. As a family member, I am more or less obliged to assist him in hosting our guests.
Because of this role as a mini-host alongside my parents, I have had the opportunity to converse with people of a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Let me rephrase that: I had to talk to people because of the position I was in. Frequently, I was very uncomfortable and wanted to crawl in a corner yelling, “Why do I have to be the one to initiate hospitality? Why can’t others?” Sometimes I felt like I was forced to be hospitable.
And yet, because I was placed in an uncomfortable situation, I learned. Isn’t hospitality one of the key factors in intercultural learning? You see, intercultural learning starts with the acceptance of the uncomfortable. Being hospitable requires stepping down. Hospitality may come more naturally to some, but it requires practice by all.”