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Life



Yesterday!

Yesterday is gone.
It will never be again.
Don't worry about the criticism
That you get from your friends.

Just have faith in God.
Let His love, abide within.
God is the only one
Who can cleanse you from your sins.

Chorus
Everyday of your life
You gonna face many sorrows -
Right now is the day;
Don't put off today for tomorrow.

Don't you trouble yourself
Over the problems of yesterday.
Trying to solve yesterday's problems
Won't make today's problems fade away.

Why worry yourself over yesterday
Since it has come and gone?
Why won't you make up your mind
To leave yesterday's problems alone?

Repeat chorus:

There's not one moment of tomorrow
That anyone of us can borrow
There ain't no way
We can face tomorrow's problems today!

We can't go back in time,
Nor erase our mistakes
To ease our troubled minds.
We can't erase the hurt that we might have caused.

Repeat chorus:

God is the only one who we can confide in.
He's able to wash away all of our sins.
Time we can't control.
Where death is, no one knows!
If you don't want the hurt to last
Don't bring up the past
Because it doesn't make sense-
No, it doesn't make any sense at all.

Repeat chorus



I

I, Alvoya Johnson, can remember an event that happened to me in my childhood days. One day I was walking to school, and when I got there, these girls were standing in front of the building. They said "Ooo, I seen you get out of that man's car." I said, "No, you didn't--I walked to school." What had happened was I walked past this car and the man was letting his little girl out of the car. The two girls were standing a long ways away, so they really couldn't see. So they went back and told my foster mother. When I got home, she said, "Was you in a car with a man?"

I said, "No."

Then she said, "If you don't tell me the truth, I will beat you."

I was still saying, "No, I didn't. I walked to school."

So then she said, "I am going to beat you because you are lying to me." So in order not to get a beating I told her yes I was in the car, but I wasn't. I was just saying that so I would not get beat. She beat me anyway. Then she asks me, "Did the guy rape me?" I told her no. Then she said tell the truth. I was scared to death. I then said, "Yes, he did," but nothing like that ever happened.

So then the next day when I was in school, she had the police come up there. They had me put on this funny-looking hat to disguise myself. Then they took me driving around saying, "Where did he take you?"

I said, "To a garage."

They said, "Can you show us?"

I said, "Yes." So we came up to this old garage and I said, "That's it." So they looked inside and then they asked me what was in it. I told them some leaves because that was all I knew that would be in a garage, and I told them that it was dirty.

They never found anything or anybody, but I know that the truth was there was never anyone. So that's what happened.



You're Never Too Old to Learn

When I was a child I did not get to go to school much because my mother was often sick and I had to help out. She died when I was thirteen, and I went to live with an aunt and uncle. I was able to get in one more year of school and then quit and went to work at age fourteen.

I married at age sixteen in 1950, and three years later started my own family. I always had a dream of going back to school one day. I was divorced and became a single parent, and things really were tough. I was in an abusive marriage for almost 37 years and financially did not know how I would raise my children. I started having children in 1953 and had six children. I still wanted to go back to school myself and couldn't, but I got all of my children to graduate from high school. Because I did not have an education, things were really tough. I took in boarders and did baby-sitting for a living. In spite of the hardships, I made sure my children finished their education. Some went on to college and other kinds of training.

In 1981, I decided to try to get an education for myself, and I went to be tested to see where I was in my grade level. The gentleman who tested me gave me a list of words, and when I did not know all the words, he said it wouldn't do me any good to come back to school because at my age I might as well forget it. I was discouraged. I went home and cried.

I knew I was not stupid, so a few months later I went to Eastland to be tested again. The lady that tested me there said she thought I had dyslexia. Again for the second time I was discouraged and gave up for several years.

I started to experience health problems that stopped me from working at home. So I decided to try to go back to school one more time. I returned to North High School in September of 1994. I enrolled in the PALS program and hoped that the use of computers would increase my skills. I found myself at age sixty going back to school to try again to get an education. I would like to help some of the other 90,000 people in Franklin County who need literacy help. I would like to be able to help others who find themselves in this situation and not have them wait as long as I did to get an education.

The brain is the greatest gift God ever gave us to use. When I decided to go back to school my grandson said, "Grandma, why are you going back to school? You can take my place in school, I don't like it." So I said, "Son, my father had an old saying, 'You don't miss the water till the well goes dry'. You may find yourself someday where I am and you may not get to go back?" He did quit school and went to work. I hope he gets his GED. My heart aches for him.

I always thought 8 was my lucky number. I hope to get my GED in 1998. I feel I have come a long way in the last two years. Carole, my teacher, has been a lot of help to me. I can read and spell better than I ever did. I wish I could go back to the gentleman at B.V.R. who said forget it and say look at me now.

If you know anyone who needs help in schooling, please invite them to come for a day to school with you. No mountain is too high to climb with an education. You can go to the top of the peak. But, if you don't get an education you will never know if you could have made it or not. You know I even love the smell of this old school.



My Time

In the 1920s and 1930s it was not like living in 1998. Seventy-six years ago we lived so much different than we do today.

We lived in the country on a farm. We didn't have things like we do today to work in our fields with, like tractors. We did it with our horses and plows. Back then, we didn't have cars, electric lights, refrigerators, washers, dryers, toasters, dishwashers, microwaves, vacuum cleaners, T.V., or radio. We washed our clothes on a rub board and pinned them on a line in the sun. We didn't have running water. We had to pump our water or get water out of a well. Sometimes we would have to tote our water from a well, on wash days.

We used to put water in wash tubs and put it out in the sun, to let it get warm. Then we could take a bath in it.

We didn't have indoor bathrooms. We didn't have toothbrushes or toothpaste. We cleaned our teeth with soda. We had a wood-burning stove to cook on. We didn't have very much in our house. I remember we didn't have very much money. We would put our milk in a bucket in a well to keep it cold. We would go down to Horse Shoe Bay and get fish and salt them down. Then we put the fish in a wooden barrel.

Most of the time Dad didn't have any money to get us children anything for Christmas. Mom would always cook a big Christmas dinner. That is one thing we always had, food and love, from Mom and Dad. When Dad had a little money, he would get penny candy, apples, or oranges and nuts. They put it in our sock for Christmas. We made things for Christmas. We would go to the fields to get our Christmas tree. It would be a holly tree, with red holly berries on it. Us kids would make things to put on the tree, like paper chains.

We didn't get very much for Christmas. But they showed their love to us. That is why I love them. They taught us how to trust God and how to put him first in our life.

Our Dad would read the Bible to all of us. They prayed with us every day. They taught us how to give our heart to the Lord. When I was growing up, we had to stay out of school a lot and work in the in the fields. We would stay home two days and go to school two. That is why I didn't make it at school.

In 1965, I tried to go back to school, but my husband got sick. He was in hospitals, off and on, about two years. My older son Gene, had finished school at that time. I had three boys in school. Gene left home and got married.

I had to find a job with all of that going on. I just couldn't keep up with my school work, so I quit school.

Many years later, in 1992, my sister Virdy was reading in the newspaper one day. It said that people had a chance to go back to school if they wanted to. In 1992, I made up my mind to do something for myself. I have always wanted to know how to read.

At the age of 70, I met Mary Anne, at the library here in Mansfield, Ohio. She has played an important part in my learning to read. It has opened a new world to me.

She will never know how much I thank her.



A Trip to Somewhere Else

It's an early summer morning in this average American city. The sun has not yet spread its brilliance over the concrete and steel structures that are the landmarks of my home. This is my territory, my environment. It is as important to my being as the air I breathe. I accept this city although it is often cruel, indifferent, and terminal in its judgment. But today I leave it to go somewhere else.

I try to move quickly and directly toward my destination. Time is essential. Unfortunately and to my distress, there are many obstacles in my path. There is so much clutter and trash that it seems to be indigenous to this urban landscape. The scenery is decorated by confetti, broken glass, fallen debris and fallen warriors, battled-scarred soldiers who have suffered the indignities of society, whose armor has been dented by a thousand defeats and has been annointed with the strong scent of urine. They have attached themselves to doorways and steel exhaust pipes that have been designed by some architectural wizard to extrude from the ground. How can I get around them? I cannot.

This is my journey, my time to escape. Time is of the essence. I must pass over these obstacles regardless of their repulsiveness, regardless of any danger they might represent. Time is essential. If I am late, there will be no escape. I run swiftly to remove myself from their presence. Yet their very existence weighs heavily upon my conscience. They are my people; who am I but one of them?

Almost exhausted, I approach the terminal of my destination. I can see the image of the grey dog and its background of red, white, and blue pasted on a building that should have been replaced 20 years ago. I have arrived. I have my ticket in hand, and there are no more obstacles to overcome. Or so I think.

A handful of men is standing between me and the freedom I so desperately want. The strong stench of urine has returned to invade my sense of security. The fallen warriors have risen. Their glazed red eyes tell all the stories that I don't want to hear or am afraid to hear. They do not speak, but in silence ask the question, "Where are you going brother?"

I answer them in the same silent manner, "I'm going on a trip to somewhere else."



Coming to America

I came to Columbus from China in 1948. I remember the first time I arrived in this strange country. I felt so lonely that I dreamed an airplane would take me back to China. I cried every day. I missed my mother and all my good friends. I can't speak English and can't go out by myself?just like a dumb and deaf mute person. That kind of depressed my inmost heart. I cannot find a suitable word to describe it.

My husband and I lived with a Chinese friend. One day an American came to knock the door. My friend answered her "yes." Later she was shaking her head and said "no." I was so envious of her. I asked myself when can I understand and speak English like her. From that time I was determined to start learning English, but my son was just born also.

We had a laundry business. I could not go to school to learn English. One day I met an elderly American lady on the bus. She talked to me a lot. I did not understand at all, I just smiled to her, but she thought I knew what she said. Later she found out I never learned English. Then she bought an old McGuffy schoolbook for me. Every week she stopped at my laundry and taught me English from that book. I studied by myself while I worked. I put the book against the wall between the ironing board and the wall. If some word I didn't know, then I asked my husband. Sometimes he had a good mood that he answered me. Otherwise he kept quiet.

When the laundry mat opened a lot, it made our laundry business go downhill. We were hardly able to make a living. Then we changed to do a grocery business. In beginning we only had American food. Gradually I added different countries' foods. We were the first Oriental grocery in the town. I did not have experience at all. It was more risky than to gamble, especially since my English was so poor.

One day, I saw that lady who taught me English. She was in the Lazarus fifth floor. They had a big room for shoppers to rest. She held my hand to introduce everyone to me. She said "This is a young lady who I told you about. I taught her the McGuffy book. Now she owns a ten countries' food grocery." I saw her face showed very happy. It seems she had done a big accomplishment. When I remember what she said to her friends I can not hold in my laughing.

Wow! The McGuffy book was so helpful to me.



Who Am I?

I wake up every morning, and I wonder...
Who am I ?

I am a daughter, a sister, a mother, and my family's provider. Then I
look into the mirror and I ask myself...
Who am I ?

I look into my children's little faces to see if I can identify myself,
and so I ask myself...
Who am I ?

No matter how hard I struggle and try to be all of the above, no
matter how hard I fight for my dignity, I ask myself...
Who am I?

I respect those people who respect me. I take care of my
responsibilities. No matter how lonely I get, I ask myself...
Who am I?

Overall I try to be all of the above, and I tell myself that I am a
strong woman. I will be all that I can be, the best of whatever I am.



Male Unknown

Here comes a kid
I've never seen before.
He's walking through
the classroom door.
An earring he wears
in his lip.
I hear today
that's very hip.
I don't get it;
maybe I'm not cool.
I guess that's why,
I'm here at school.



One Year Living in America

This last year has been very special for me--one year living in America.

I was extraordinarily sensitive to cold when I came to Dayton. That cold was from being unfamiliar and feeling strange. I couldn't hear and speak English, so I couldn't understand others and I couldn't communicate.

Americans, their looks and food and culture and history, are very different from ours. I must pay attention to the food smells from my mouth whenever I go out, because our spices are very strong and very strange to Americans. I didn't know how to operate the gas pump in a gas station. And I broke into a sweat to take out money from a cash machine. I was so surprised when I saw a lot of items in the grocery store; I didn't know what to choose, how to choose. Another trouble was units, weight, length, temperature, distance. The units that we use are different from Americans' units, so I got confused and converted into our units. Also, I had to learn the American monetary units. At first, because I got confused using coins, I only used paper money, so I always had a lot of coins in my purse. I had a lot of things to learn. That was like an assignment for me to solve.

Through travelling to many places, I have learned that the world is so wide and varied. I can't forget the majestic Grand Canyon and the endlessly opened Mojave Desert, and the beautiful Niagara Falls. Those were big surprises which I had not experienced.

Spending many holidays--St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas--and being associated with so many people, I've gotten familiar with American culture and Americans.

Particularly joining Full Circle was very helpful and interesting for my family. Full Circle is a family program. My tutor, Anne, visits my home to teach me and my kids, I attend parents' group meeting once a week, and there I can meet friends from many other countries. That is very interesting. Sometimes we cook, we discuss important subjects, we read books, and we have parties also. My tutor helps me not only learning English but also living in this country. She can always understand my English the best. She said that I can understand your words from the heart. We shopped, watched movies, had dinners and talked about music and poems together. She sometimes makes me surprised and happy. She is always fun to be with. She is a very smart and warm-hearted and pretty woman. She is a very good teacher and my best American friend.

Another tutor of mine, Mrs. Ferne Neeb, acts like my mother. She is seventy-two years old, but she is very innocent like a child. She is very kind and thoughtful. I love her voice and her artistic handwriting and her big heart.

I have two children, one boy and one girl. My son, Moon Sung, is in fourth grade, and my daughter, Moon Young, is in second grade. The first day of school, I worried whether they would enjoy school or not. But after school when I saw my children's bright faces I was happy and my mind was set at ease. They talked about so many things: their teachers, their friends, the school building, the yellow bus, the bus driver.

Moon Young talked about her classmate, Megan, who has brown hair and looks pretty. She is very kind and she always helps Moon Young with everything. Her teacher, Mrs. Domensky, was very kind to her, and other kids are kind to her too. The other children have blonde hair and brown hair and white faces. My daughter is not white, and she does not have blonde hair. She said that they are prettier than she is. I said that's OK, you are enough pretty. I think you are the prettiest girl in the world.

My children made friends. They love their teachers, and they are enjoying school very much. They are learning English very well. I think my children have had new experiences in their own way. They are enjoying living in America too. I had a job when I was in Korea, so I couldn't share much time with my family, but now I don't have a job. Most of all, I like to be with my family most of the time.

I love the bright smiles and laughing sounds of people. I was impressed with the kindness of Americans. They always say "thank you," "sorry," "hello," and "excuse me." This is very impressive to me. I love it.

Once, when my friends and I had a small car crash, some people passing in a car stopped and called the police and helped and comforted us. They behaved as if they had that accident.

And my husband lost his electronic memo book in an airplane. After two weeks he received it by mail. He yelled, "America is a very good country!" The electronic memo book is very important for him because he puts everything in it. Northwest Airlines sent it to him.

I admire the educational system and the infrastructure of American society. I have realized that America has a much more developed system and modernized culture. I have tried to think what's the reason why Americans have been able to make marvelous progress in a couple of centuries although my country has several thousand years of history. I want to learn more about America and its history.

Now I have found common points from Americans. Their feelings and morals and basic good sense are the same for the most part as ours. My English is still very poor, but I've got recourse to saying "pardon me?" when I can't understand others. I think my life in America must be a bonus that God has permitted to me. Thanks to God for giving me a valuable experience, and thanks to warm-hearted Americans. While I stay here, I will live my own life the very best I can.



My Journey to America

When I was a student living in Saigon in South Vietnam, I had a dream. My dream was to get a scholarship to continue my studies in a U.S. college. But unfortunately for me, when I got a scholarship in 1972, my country was overtaken by the Communists. (North Vietnam followed the Communist policy. South Vietnam followed the Democratic policy.) So my desire was canceled.

In 1963 the U.S. government helped South Vietnam to protect their territory by sending the U.S. forces to Vietnam. The war became stronger day to day. Both soldiers of North and South Vietnam died in the war.

In 1973 the U.S. government signed a treaty with North Vietnam "to settle peace all over the country." After that the U.S. force withdrew from South Vietnam. The Viet Cong (name of North Vietnam) didn't carry on this treaty. They attacked South Vietnam. The South Vietnam government fell to Communism.

The Viet Cong put the ex-soldiers and ex-officers of South Vietnam into prison. My destiny wasn't to escape the risk of my country. I was put in prison one year because I was a technical principal of a school. This school was built with the help of the U.S. government.

Thank God I was sponsored by my brother-in-law. In 1997 the U.S. government permitted my family to immigrate to the U.S. I left my daughter in my country because the immigration law doesn't permit the children above 21 years old to come to the U.S. with their parents. In 1985 my son (born 1977) went by boat from my country. He is now living in the U.S.

In Ohio I'm very happy working in a good job at Tyson-Pierre Foods. Luckily the company organized an ESL course and GED course for the foreigners to continue their studies. I found out in these classes many new things useful for my new life in America.



A Conversation Heard, A Decision Made

In the fall of 1997, I came to the ABLE program, seeking to fulfill a burning desire and longing to finish my education. I was fearful but also hopeful. The teachers were very kind to me and gave me tests and talked to me. When they said they thought I could do this, I was filled with hope and joy. Yes! I thought to myself, I will try very hard!

And now, after a few months of study and progress, because of an overheard conversation, I was thinking of leaving ABLE. Full of doubts, and yes, shame, at what I had heard.

A young woman and her child walked into the classroom. I was sitting alone at a table. She went about her business of speaking with the teacher and her staff. Was she a teacher also? Was she on the staff at ABLE? I didn't know, but it really did not matter if she was, for it was what she said to her child that had an impact on me.

After she completed her business with the staff, she sat down with her child, looked at me, and began to lecture the child. She was concerned about her child's grades and wanted her to do better. At first I paid no attention. A mother worried about a child's grades was a common thing, after all. But then she said "it."

"Do you want to end up like all these people here? ...unable to make something of yourself because you didn't work hard enough?" Then she turned to me and said, "Don't you think I'm right? Will you please tell her she needs to do better, or end up here!" I simply told the child education was important. Then I went on with my work. Very much disturbed at her words and the old "what will people think?" syndrome kicking in along with feelings of shame, I asked myself, "What in the world am I doing here? What do I hope to accomplish by trying to educate myself so late in life?"

A good teacher had just taught us, "never assume." So, I tried not to as I sat there frozen to my seat, not wanting to participate in any of her conversation. I could not get the exact moment, by the look on her face, when she realized I was one of "them." A student, a dropout, unable to ever better my life. She turned her back and left shortly after.

"Never assume." But what else could I think when with one sweep of her hand she lumped all of the students in the room into one category? Dropouts. How I hate that word--makes it sound like we dropped out of life.

Then emotions set in, and I began to ask myself questions. First, I must say, I felt sorry for the child because she was not teaching her to work harder on her grades. She was teaching her that unless her grades were better, she would end up inferior, like us. This in its own way will teach the child intolerance of others.

But that is not the issue here. The issue is, should I stay with the program? Do I really belong here? Was she right? Is it too late? How can it help me to better myself in life when I'm already too old to get a good job and make a better living? Too late, too late -- the words ran around in my head faster and faster!

Then it happened. A great feeling of anger and frustration bellowed up from the very depths of me and made a statement that for a moment I was afraid I had spoken out loud. A cry of indignation said, "Deliver me from intellectual superiority!" I had my answer. I am a person of worth. I will stay and try to finish. Perhaps there is even something this lady can learn from us, tolerance of others and maybe even kindness.

I know it's never too late to learn, even for your own sake. By example we can even help others who wish to better their own lives. No matter what age you are or what station in life, the children can teach you and we can teach them what we have learned from life. Sometimes we can form lasting friendships between the generations.

So there you have it. I will stay. God willing, I will finish and get my long coveted G.E.D. and then, who knows? Anything can happen if you wait long enough and work hard enough. After all, some things are just meant to be. Never be afraid to try.



Today I'm Free

Today I'm free!

Free to come and go as I wish.

Free to love myself, as I want to be loved.

Free to breathe and be alive and live my life as I want to live it.

Free to be me, and free to take on new challenges as I feel the need to.

Free to love another, who will love back as he wishes to.

Today I'm free!

Free to make changes, as I see the need to.



Let It Go!

If it's tearing you apart,
..........................let it go.

If it's getting under your skin,
..........................let it go.

If it's controlling your every thought,
..........................let it go.

If it's confusing to your mind,
..........................let it go.

If it's stressing you out,
..........................let it go.

If it's making you sad,
..........................let it go.

If it's robbing you of your sleep,
..........................let it go.

If it's breaking your heart,
..........................let it go.

If it's keeping you from living your life,
..........................let it go.



If

If you think you're beaten, you are.
If you think you dare not, you don't.
If you'd like to win but think you can't,
It's almost for sure you won't.

If you think you're losing, you've lost.
For out in the world we find success begins
With a person's will - it's all in the state of mind.

If you think you're outclassed you are.
You've got to think high to rise.
You have to stay with it in order to win the prize.
Life's battles don't always go to the one with the better plan,
For more often than not, you'll win.

If only you think you can!

Everybody makes mistakes;
Therefore, mistakes are a fact of life.
But most important it's the response to error that counts.
Think about it!

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