Bye 2008… Hello 2009…

2008 was quite the year. It was eventful to say the least. But as we could see a lot of triumph and victories, we also saw a number of defeats and losses as well. As I look back on this year, there were a lot of things personally that touched me.

I think one of the things that I’ll remember in the news are the two major natural disasters this year that shook Asia. We all remember Chengdu and the 69,000 people that died due to the massive 8.0 earthquake that hit the region. But just about ten days earlier, there was an even more disastrous event in Cyclone Nargis. Over the course of those two weeks, over 200,000 people died due to those two events. It’s just baffling to think about. Think about it this way. The number of lives lost is equivalent to about half of the population of Seattle…

But the responses that the two areas had were different. Myanmar’s government and leadership failed to really answer the problems that they now had to deal with. The Chinese now had to answer the calls of the media questioning the concerns of the structural stability of their buildings and other national concerns with regards to safety and emergency response. But it makes us wondering about our ability to respond to disasters of such magnitude, should another one happen. How will we respond?

A lot of people were in the news as well. Arguably the biggest individual in the news was that of Barrack Obama. Charismatic, charming, and young, he became the first African-American (and minority in general) to become elected as President of the United States. Now the question is how will he help the country respond to the struggling times of the world economy and other issues that he inherits from the past eight years?

But as one person came to power, another one fell because of her enemies. Benazir Bhutto was looking to become the next president of Pakistan. But as she addressed her supporters and people, she was shot and the target of suicide bombers. If it wasn’t for her assassination, it could have changed relations around the world completely with new leaders coming to power this year.

But I think it was also a year of triumph as well. The Beijing Olympics provided a lot of great news and new rivalries. Out is the rivalry between Russia and the U.S. and in is China vs. the U.S. Both competed until the very end in terms of the medal count, and while the U.S. won the most medals… The Chinese came out on top in the pedestal with more golds.

The headline of it all was Michael Phelps though. Sure, Usain Bolt set two new records, but for someone to win eight gold medals was a major feat. It did require some help from teammates, but he pulled it off. It was a true showing of stamina, endurance, strength, and will by Phelps to achieve the impossible in such a time where athletes are getting stronger and quicker by the second.

I know for me, personally, this year was definitely one of its ups and downs as well. The struggle with finding a job, figuring out my future, struggling relationships, and other issues, it was definitely tough to grind it out and get through it all.

But in the midst of that, there were a lot of surprises as well. One of the things I never expected was that I would be working with youth. I figured I was too old and also not the greatest influence on those that were younger than I am. But this year, opportunities arose to work with youth, namely at Mt. Hermon and through the youth group at my church. I came in with a lot of fears and worries as I had no real experience as a youth leader. But that’s where God’s grace and strength came in. It’s been an amazing process and experience so far in the past six months to see many of the students I’ve been work with grow in their faith.

I kind of took for granted the importance of family too. As it came closer to Christmas, the weather started to worsen and grave. It became more difficult for me to go home, to the point where I had to spend Christmas away from family. While I was thankful and enjoyed spending Christmas with friends of mine, I realized how important my family was to me.

Soccer and work has been very much an experience as well. As I play on my teams and work with Underdog Sports Leagues, I’ve enjoyed hanging out and working with my teammates and co-workers. Sure, winning division titles and watching and working the games have been fun, but it’s about the relationships that I’ve gotten to develop over the course of the year. There have been a lot of great memories this past year and I know there will be many more in 2009.

I think what I really experienced most was grace. To be honest, I didn’t expect to be in the kind of shape or mentality that I am in today. I can still run around, talk to people, and well, live. In May, I managed to suffer my third concussion in as many months playing soccer. The effects of the concussion could have been much, much worse, but I managed to come out alright from the incident.

Thinking about everything else, I’m much better off than I could be. I’m not struggling financially, my health is alright (barring another concussion), and I have clothes on my back, a roof over my head, and food on the table each day.

As I went to a Seattle City Council meeting to speak to them with regards to their 2009-2010 budget, I listened to other individuals and groups advocate for specific issues, whether it be homeless shelters, youth at-risk programs, or other services that serve the community. But to hear and see the needs of just the city alone made me aware of the reality of the world today. Today, I still think and hear the stories that I heard from that meeting and constantly think about how I can help when I can, and how fortunate I am to be in the position that God’s put me in.

As 2009 comes around, I know there will be a lot more surprises, a lot more victories, and a lot more trials that I’ll encounter as well. But I’ll be ready and take them as they come.

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