Update: As of this year, we are still in contact with the parents of the kid. They always post updates in their social media accounts and they usually include photos of the kid. Such a delight to know that I once had a quick encounter with a kind who became fond of me (of my dolphin doll, actually) and now he is growing and doing so well. I thank God for that encounter through that 10,000KRW-worth dolphin doll.

Our circumstances sometimes lead us to some places, meeting new faces in ways we least expected. We may become anxious and cautious in walking the streets we never been before. We are timid in tasting the food offered to us because the odor and presentation is way very weird than we used to have on our tables. We burst in disappointment when it’s hard for us to communicate to people whose language is totally different from ours. We may say language and culture hinder our relationship and friendship with our fellow from the other side of the planet. But I believe that when the Heavens dictate it, even if we speak differently and act differently; our thoughts and understanding just harmonize with each other. The next thing we realize, we already build our friendship through the smiles in our faces and the joy we felt in our hearts.

This was deeply revealed to me when I was given a privilege to walk on my own (alone – without acquaintances) in the interiors of the Incheon International Airport last October 21, 2014, while I was waiting for my flight at 1:15 AM Korean time. (Of course I was not able to tour around. It’s just so big.) I was bringing a trolley, a Lotte Mart paper bag, and a purple with white dolphin doll. The dolphin was around a meter long which is big enough to catch the attention of dolphin lovers and stuffed toy lovers alike. We (together with my companions) had it from a night market in Hongdae area. I paid 10,000 KRW for 10 dart pins that was used to hit and pop the balloons that were placed in square cabinets around two meter away from which the player throw the pins.

Together with my friends, we were able to hit around 6 balloons which entitled us for the dolphin doll as a prize. After checking my luggage in, I was only left with the paper bag and the dolphin. I carefully hold the dolphin and mindfully remembered it when I left it for some reasons. I am forgetful at times and the dolphin was just so valuable to me – that was my feeling for it during that moment. As I was heading my way with the crowd towards the exit gate, I noticed that there are a lot of Koreans going in the same direction as I was. I followed the crowd and eventually reached the end – the waiting lobby for boarding.

Among the passengers that were waiting in the lobby were Koreans. I assumed that they would be flying on the same flight as I was, since they were crowding at the bleachers in front of our exit gate. I was a little bit bored and lonely, so I just stared at the big LCD TV airing their local midnight variety show – in Korean. I stared blankly and my mind was wandering elsewhere, until I was disturbed by a Korean kid near the glass window. He was talking with his mother when a young Korean girl, almost same age as his, approached him and hand him something to eat. I was fascinated by the scene and wanted to photograph them. I was a bit timid, so I got it pictured but a little blurry.

The boy played again with his parents until he saw me holding that dolphin doll. He stared at it, at the same time calling the attention of her mother. It’s as if, he’s trying to say to her mother that he saw something interesting. The mother pointed it out, simultaneously teaching her son to say ‘hi’ to the dolphin – of course in Korean. So I lift it up, wiggled its tail and started to put life on the dolphin doll. He was so amazed to the point that he crawled on the group trying to catch my attention so that I could play with the dolphin.

A couple of minutes passed by, still the boy is amazingly looking and for me, wanting to play with the dolphin. But he’s hesitant to come and touch it. So I stood up, brought the dolphin near him. At first I don’t have the intention of giving it to him, but when I saw the innocent happiness in his face, I just let the dolphin go and gave it to him. His mother was very surprised and tried to refuse it, in way difficult for her to say to me because it was very clear that I am a foreigner – who don’t speak and understand Korean. But I said, ‘gwaenchanh-a’ which means ‘It’s Okay’, but later did I realize that I was not become respectful. I could have said ‘gwaenchanh-ayo’ – a more formal one. Then I talked to the mother in very crooked Korean. I don’t know if she understood it well but I think I was trying to ask her if her kid really liked it. We smiled with each other, as if our hearts completely understood what we’re trying to say.

The kid playfully raised the dolphin and the mother approached the father who appeared to as they were trying to convene on something. Then she approached me and requested me to have a photograph with their son. I did. So, together with their son and the dolphin I posed for a picture and his father took the photograph through their instant camera. The picture just popped up after a couple of seconds and he gave it to me – more like a token of gratitude in exchange of the dolphin doll. Then the mother requested me to pose again together with her and her son, and I did. After the picture popped up, she kept and happily inserted it into her wallet. The kid continued to play with his parents, but this time, with the dolphin. I was touched and my eyes went teary. I was overwhelmed to see that somebody was so happy with what I did. I can’t help myself but to feel so honored with how they responded to just a mere giving.

Our flight was delayed due to aircraft maintenance check. Instead of complaining about it, I see it as a good opportunity. I was given a time to internalize what I just did and how I felt. I stood up and picked my sign pen. I wrote some words for the kid near the tail of the dolphin. “BE HAPPY. BE STRONG. –Cha”, that’s what I wrote. Then, I told the mother, that it was my message for the kid, and that the latter word is my name. She was smiling again in a way that I really loved. It was pure and sincere. Then she translated the message to her son. Couple of minutes later, she approached me and handed me a piece of paper with message of gratitude. Then I knew that they were also travelling to Cebu. I was so happy and before we boarded in the airplane at around 3:00 Korean time, I have a very satisfied and happy feeling. I felt very blessed and overwhelmed after knowing, talking and smiling to Koreans in their country. It seems that my travel was completed during the last few minutes of my delayed flight.

The 10,000 KRW dolphin doll became the key so that I would know the kid and the Korean couple. I knew that they have a good heart and I am showing my pure intention when I gave the dolphin. I knew and felt in my heart that we’ll meet again. We’ve established a good relationship that is rooted from the gratefulness and happiness that we felt during that moment. The father of the kid has communicated me via Facebook that they already returned to Korea. Their kid still treasured the dolphin and their son even sleeps with it in his bed.

Friendship and relationships are not purely based on our own choices. I believe that everything has been pre – determined. We feel the happiness and satisfaction when we know and discover how things and events are completely interrelated. I didn’t play the game to earn that dolphin doll nor to give it to a Korean boy. I played because I’m just so curious about it without knowing that it’s a channel for me to know and befriend a Korean couple. Maybe some of us had bad experiences in relationships and friendships. It’s natural and part of the long process. What’s important and crucial is we’ll never stop making friends. And we must remember that a lasting relationship begins by showing our sincerity and the pureness of our intentions.

Let your stories be heard. I am open to collaborate with other co-inspirers out there. Simply comment or email me if you have “ExtraPlus” stories, or you have stories the world needs to hear.