I Know You So Well… But We’ve Never Spoken

On Sunday morning I had a very strange feeling come over me. I’d like to share it with you.

For the last month and a half I have been playing basketball once a week with a tightly knit group of Korean men ranging in age from 24 to 60. Many of them went to the high school we play at, played college or professionally together, or have some family affiliations to the group. At about 12pm people slowly trickle in with their sports bags, smelling faintly of coffee and cigarettes, and with a sparkle of sleep still in their eye. For 15 minutes or so there is complete silence in the gym, except for shoes being tied and clothes ruffling. As I make eye contact with each of them, I smile, bow my head slightly (customary greeting here) and say “Anyanghaseo.” More people begin to arrive and the sound of basketballs hitting the floor fills my ears. A few of us at a time shoot around together, rebounding for one another and warming up as best we can. On this day, it was zero degrees Celsius.

I greet some of the younger players with single word sentences and playfully play defense on them to help them warm up. Usually by this time the sun is shining a bit brighter, and the eldest players start to organize teams for the day. Since the winning team of the day gets their lunch paid for by the losers, there is usually a few minutes of arguing over who gets who on their team. Then, we begin. At the opening tip off, I make eye contact with my point guard, a 45 year-old ex-KBA player, and quickly shoot a glance in the direction I want him to go. A split second later, the ball goes up in the air, I tip it exactly where my eyes showed him, and he drains the first 3-pointer of the game. “Perfect!” I thought.

Later, when I was resting in between games, a feeling settled onto me like a blanket fresh out of the dryer. I felt a warmth in my chest; a warmth akin to post-present-opening Christmas morning. It felt like family. But then I realized how strange that thought was, “I mean, how could I feel like family here? I have never said a single word to most of these guys.” As the games came to an end, we all made our way outside and shuffled into cars to head to lunch. With a steaming bowl of “Ja Jang Bap” in front of me, I looked around at the faces in the room. They were laughing, smiling, joking around with one another. If they met my gaze they would smile at me from ear to ear. And that’s when it dawned upon me…

THE TAKEAWAY: My entire life I have learned to associate the depth of a relationship with someone with how much I know about them personally. Haven’t we all? But on this day I realized, I knew almost nothing about most of these men, and yet, I felt so close to them. It was the smiles on their faces, their playfulness, and the content of their character that let me feel close to them. Those things are what make a person who they are. And those are what bring people together. Actions speak louder than words…

4 thoughts on “I Know You So Well… But We’ve Never Spoken

    • Thanks Soman! I really appreciate it! I am actually teaching English at a high school here. I kind of fell into the job I guess you’d say. I had a friend here doing it, then just followed her advice, and now I’m loving it! What do you do?

  1. Hi Chad,

    This is very cool. We’ve met some new friends. Of course, we’re able to converse with them, but in just a few short hours together we’ve really connected. I don’t know if the connection would be this strong if we’d only met over phone. My guess is at least half of what draws us to them is body language that we’re not even aware we’re absorbing.

    I enjoy your blogs and will respond as I can. I haven’t looked for your comments back but, I’ll do so soon.

    • I’m glad you enjoy my blogs Dave. Perhaps it was body language that allowed our families to connect so well when I first met you. I feel like that is the same here.

      I’m glad you are spending time with my parents too. Theyre great people. I owe them everything. Wish I could be there!!

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