Julie traveled all the way from Chicago and came to the Lotus Flower Island with a question about her life’s purpose. By the time she left the privately owned spiritual retreat, there was no doubt whatsoever that she found the answer she was looking for.
She’ll return to this rustic hideaway hidden away off the mainland of South Korea and, remain there, devoting herself to serving others from around the world who are searching for similar answers. Julie’s newfound happiness will be in helping others suffering from too much technology and not enough love.
Julie, not her real name, served as a teacher when she lived in Korea a number of years ago. Years later, she moved to the United States, but was unable to get a similar job because of her limited command of the English language. So, the industrious petite young woman started her own business.
She opened a restaurant and ran it by herself after falling out with her ex-husband who moved back to Korea, leaving her to fend for herself with the flourishing business and . . . oh yes, . . . two small children.
A single mom and a business woman! How could she ever manage? But manage she did. And then some! Julie threw herself into the work and into her home. She worked long hours and then started a side business for people who needed a limited day care program for children of working moms like herself. Whatever she seemed to touch turned into gold, she was that fortunate, that blessed.
The big money came in catering, she mentioned on a trip to and from Lotus Flower Island where we hooked up during a visit to Korea to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of WON Buddhism. The enlightened master started a modern version of Buddhism on April 28, 1916, with just nine initial followers. The island became a retreat for the natural curve of the land, no bigger than a postage stamp. You could walk the entire perimeter in just about an hour as Julie and I did.
Today, the island serves pilgrims of all races, creeds and religions. There are millions worldwide who practice WON Buddhism. It’s the fourth largest religion in South Korea. Julie volunteered at the center in Chicago taking charge of the kitchen to insure that only the proper ingredients and foods items made it to the tables. She loved giving of herself during each and every visit.
She liked the cooking and restaurant business, but catering was taking up more and more of her time, she said. She got to a point where she eventually hired 13 employees and, despite a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, she always paid them a $10 minimum.
Soon, however, she learned something was missing in her life. “All I did was go to work and then go home. Go to work and then go home. I was so unhappy,” she confided to me on a bus ride following a fun-thrilled motorboat ride from the island.
She returned to Korea this time to take part in a spiritual odyssey. But more importantly, t0 search for an answer for her life. What was she to do besides work and home, work and home?
She found the answer on the Buddhist-owned and operated island. No sooner had she got off the boat and trudged up the long hill to the dining area then she made a bee-line to the kitchen. There she felt at home; she also took charge when she noticed how the work could be accomplished more efficiently. She showed the few people living on the island how she conducted her business and they enjoyed the efficiency.
“I found my answer” Julie beamed after the overnight trip came to an end. “This is where I will come. I will work here for others.”
Her oldest son is currently studying for a PhD in English, while her younger one is a junior in high school. “I’ll give myself three years and then come back,” she said with a certainty that anyone who ever met Julie knows you can count upon.
She found exactly what she was looking for, an answer.
She also found her calling. And something tells me that she has discovered the secret to finding true happiness.