Catchers in the Rye

I opened the newspaper today to see a photo of teenagers rushing the water at Saturday’s lifeguard tryouts in San Clemente.  They were competing for summer jobs at the Southern California beach.  The photo and accompanying story made me think of one of the projects we’re launching through the Dragon Kim Fellowship.  Austin Lee, Brandon Fong, Matt Kim, and Victor Sweezey – four sophomores from the Polytechnic School in Pasadena — are leading a 5 week long summer program to share their love of the great outdoors and to train underprivileged high schoolers on lifeguarding skills, ending the summer with a paid-for lifeguarding certificate.  The teenagers that complete the program will then be eligible for those coveted lifeguarding jobs next summer.  Hmm, I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be something if one of those lifeguards saved a life?  We established the Dragon Kim Fellowship to honor and remember our 14-year old son.  We want the Foundation to touch hundreds, thousands of lives.  And through this lifeguarding program, it may even save lives.

It was a “It’s a Wonderful Life” sort of moment, where one life touches another, which touches another – a web of good acts among people taking care of each other. And in this time of political unease, it’s gratifying to see young men and women – our next generation – taking action to affect positive change. I think Dragon would have liked what we are doing.

Dragon was on the verge of becoming many things – a scholar, an athlete, a musician.  But what hits me today is that when we lost Dragon, we lost his good heart.

He said once that he wanted to become a superhero when he grew up, so that he could save and protect people.  It’s like that scene in J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”, the last book Dragon read, his assigned summer reading. When confronted with the Robert Burns rhyme, “When a body meets a body coming through the rye,” our hero, Holden Caulfield, says that he misremembered the line.  Holden thought it said “If a body catch a body.” So he pictures a big, open field of rye situated on the edge of a cliff, and kids running around, playing a some sort of game, and a divine catcher, racing back and forth, rescuing children before they fall off the edge of the Earth, saving humanity as we come running through the rye.  “That’s all I’d do all day,” says Holden. “I’d be the catcher in the rye and all.  I know it’s crazy, but it’s the only thing I’d like to be.” Holden, a cynical but sensitive teenager, is trying to make sense of a phony world.  Holden, recovering from the death of his little brother, is struggling to take care of those he loves.

I remember the many times Dragon took care of me.  And now, people tell me stories of how he took care of them.  “Yes,” I think to myself, and I whisper to Dragon, “that is a good goal, a good future career. To become a superhero.  To take care of and to protect those around you.”

I want to thank you for your support, which makes this Fellowship Program possible.  Two weeks ago, we ran our first Leadership weekend with our inaugural class of Dragon Fellows.  All 11 Fellows showed up ready to dive into their mission and vision, to meet their mentors, and to get to work on their Community Project. Now, we invite you to come meet via video a few Dragon Fellows, our superheroes in training.  Our real life Catchers in the Rye.

Go To Fellowship Program Page

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