Finalist, 2003 Kids Philosophy Slam
Woo-Kyung Kim, Age 17
Portland, Oregon

Meaning of Life

     To some, the meaning of life is joy, filled with happiness. To others it is a dreary existence that ends with death. To me, the meaning of life is faith in a positive future working to achieve it.
     Unlike many, I did not the opportunities to have a normal, physically active childhood. My doctors in Korea initially misdiagnosed me with cerebral palsy and mental retardation at the age of one. At the age of six, when I finally walked, doctors discovered that scoliosis was compromising my lung capacity. The prognosis was not good; I'd be stuck in a wheelchair by seventeen and dead by twenty. Korea did not have the facilities to help me. The chances of coming to the USA for medical assistance were slim to none, because it was prohibitively expensive.
     I escaped from that dark future because others believed that I'd get better. The certitude of my friends and family was only one of the many things that helped me from feeling despair and haplessness. They believed that one-day I would achieve something great, that my destiny was not to die in a wheelchair. I learned to keep my faith because others believed in me. The cheerful disposition was my own, guided by the spirits of those who cared.
     With the help of Shriner's Hospital for Children, a non-profit health organization, I was able to "beat the odds." Their generous donation of medical knowledge and facilities has allowed me to physically heal. I'm now seventeen, and I walk better than ever. My scoliosis is cured, although not "normal," I am head and shoulders above what I once was. Since then I've received the Presidential Physical Fitness Award and Presidential Education Award for Academic Excellence. I’m writing short stories and poems. I’m enrolled in an international baccalaureate program for social science and history, and have received an award for social studies excellence.
     I've enjoyed and suffered like all things in life, like any other person. There are moments in life when things are sad and gray. Even now I know my quest to physical recovery is not over. But if you believe it can happen, if you work for a better future, it will happen.

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