By Emma Way
Student Life Editor
Life is unpredictable and you never know when a “see-you-later” is actually a “goodbye.” On a daily basis I’m on a tight schedule, running around from my five jobs to classes to a variety of clubs. I am non-stop moving from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and that’s on a good day. Taking time to stay in touch with friends, whether that is a quick text or a coffee date, is a necessary struggle. This is a lesson I, unfortunately, learned too late.
The news that my good friend, Enoch Lee, died in a car accident reached me over a teary phone call with another mourning friend. My gut reaction was disbelief, followed by shock and immense grief, all within the matter of a couple hours on an eerily beautiful and sunny Friday.
I recalled all of the times I spent with Enoch, mostly in high school. I was young and made horrible decisions and he called me out on every single one in the most compassionate of ways.
Even as we went our separate ways in college, Enoch to the University of Delaware studying pre-med and myself here at Washington College to study political science, we kept in touch, or in all honesty, he kept in touch with me.
Never was there a phone call under an hour with Enoch. He could talk, but he could also listen. I always came to him during a crisis, whether it was when my parents got divorced or I got dumped or I needed help in calculus. No matter what the reason, it always felt like he cared and there was a point in my life where it felt like he was the only one that did.
Now I realize just how invaluable it was for me, as an awkward and unconfident teenager, to have a friend that showed so much compassion and even cared about the minuscule details.
At his viewing, it truly hit me that I was not alone in my experience with Enoch and that he had touched so many more lives than just my own. In fact, over 1000 lives, if the number of people at the ceremony was any indication of his impact.
Seeing people I recognized from college, high school, church, middle school, and even elementary school at the viewing reminded me of the value in making honest and compassionate connections with everyone I meet.
Saying “Hi, how are you” to everyone that passes is not taking an active role in shaping future friendships. In fact, it’s extremely passive and lacks any ounce of empathy.
Building positive and lasting friendships takes time and effort. Now when I have conversations, whether it’s with a close friend or someone I just met, I ask questions that go beyond the generic “how are you.” I ask about their family, their major, their interests, their successes, and their challenges. The key to this, though, is remembering their answers. So many times I was utterly shocked that Enoch could recall my little brother’s name even half a decade after he had last seen him.
Compassion doesn’t just matter in friendships; the same applies to family and to outside activities like taking time to volunteer. Enoch was a dedicated volunteer at the Christiana Hospital as an aspiring doctor, not only completing the volunteer’s typical duties like paperwork and delivering meals, but also by performing on his violin and guitar in the hospital lobby on his breaks. As if volunteering for five years wasn’t enough, he still gave back even in the little time he had for breaks.
So why am I telling you about this? In part, for selfish reasons; somehow I think that by writing this all down I’ll feel better. At the same time, I want to remind the WC campus just how important it is to show that you care about what people have to say. I feel like at WC we have a bad habit of pretending like we care by asking the all too familiar “what’s up” when we may have no intention of actually talking about what is up. There are of course exceptions as I have met some of the most compassionate and willing-to-listen people here on campus, but I often feel as if people treat the words “how are you” as a greeting instead of a question.
Enoch said those words and was prepared and wanted to listen, which I found refreshing then and even more now. I wish I could go back and express my appreciation to him for his relentlessly wonderful compassion.
Life is too short to not give back, whether that means with ears ready to listen or hands ready to help. Helping people can be as simple as a few kind words to a stranger in the elevator or being a shoulder to cry on for a close friend. This is a lesson taught to me by a friend I will forever call obba (“brother” in Korean). I hope that by sharing it with you it can also be passed throughout the WC family. Rest in peace Enoch Lee.