What Brothers Are For

I just came across this TED talk video via facebook earlier tonight.

At the beginning, I was only half-listening, but in the middle, I suddenly burst into tears. By the end, I was straight-up bawling.

There were various reasons for my tears. (If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you’re aware that North Korea is very much on my heart.) But one of the things that really hit me tonight was the concept of family.

At the end of the video, this young man addresses his long-lost sister, in case she is somehow watching.

He speaks in English, because he says he will get too emotional in Korean, but he does say one word in Korean: noona. It is the term by which all younger brothers address their older sisters in Korean.

“Noona, it has been already 10 years..”

As soon as he said, “Noona,” the tears sprang up in my eyes. It reminded me of what it means to have a brother or sister, the special bond that you share. He may not have seen in her in 10 years, he may look totally different now and be living a totally different life than when they knew each other, but she is still his older sister. That doesn’t change.

I, too, am a noona.

I have a younger brother back in the States. He has never called me noona in my life, but I have always been and always will be his older sister.

Here is a recent gchat conversation of ours:

me: hi, long time no see!!!
brother: yeah, like half a year
me: more like a month
brother: is that true?  i don’t think so
me: i think so
brother: i don’t think so
me: bahaha

That pretty much sums up our relationship right there. At least, our current relationship.

But there is so much more to it than that. The two of us may be living completely different lives on complete opposite sides of the globe with vastly different opinions on nearly everything in this world, but we still have a special bond.

I don’t know how else to say it except: he is my brother. We grew up together. We know each other. There is nothing in this world I wouldn’t give up for his good.

A few months back when I was just starting my new job and going through a really rough time, I happened to talk to my brother. It was about the third day of work and I just didn’t think I could make myself go the next day. That’s how bad I felt. I couldn’t get ahold of any of my usual go-to comforters (i.e. my dad or mom––I always feel bad bothering non-family members in those sorts of moments). But my brother just happened to be on gmail, and I spontaneously called him, even though I knew he was probably on his way to work.

He was on his way to work, but he picked up anyway.

It had been months since we had spoken, but I didn’t waste time on small talk, I just cut right to it. I don’t even remember what we said, but I just remember getting choked up at one point, him saying very logical, practical things, and me feeling so much better afterwards.

I realized the Proverb is true:

A brother is born for adversity.
(Proverbs 17:17)

No matter how the world alters around you, no matter what distance may come to separate you, you never stop being brother and sister. It’s one of the things that doesn’t change.



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Elizabeth holds to simple faith in a complex world. She values the beauty of the everyday and strives for vulnerability with other imperfect humans. She is currently pursuing her MDiv at Fuller Theological Seminary, so when she isn't busy writing academic papers, she is usually out enjoying the LA sunshine. She is constantly learning, laughing, and finding herself in awe of grace.

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