Jehovah’s Witnesses Eat Kimbap Too

A dear Facebook friend and once-guest blogger Cat, shared with me recently some of her memories of growing up a Jehovah’s Witness. She’s no longer one now. She’s a wife and mother, and warrior on a daily basis. Cat shared with me ultimately…

“I guess my point is..I want my kids to have fun and belong.”

I don’t know much about religion outside of what I learned growing up a Christian myself, or what I learned through required reading in 101 courses in college. I did have one friend in grade school who was a Jehovah’s Witness.


His name was Marty. We first met in the 2nd grade because we were in the “gifted” class together. I wish I could remember his last name right now, but I can’t. I do remember Marty being one of the kindest friends I had, and by kind I mean he was your friend forever.

Marty was a Jehovah’s Witness, and in grade school all it meant to me was that he didn’t get to do a lot of things I did. He didn’t get to eat a lot of the things I did either, and he and his mom went door-to-door in the building at Masaryk Towers where I grew up. They handed out pamphlets and newsletters from The Watchtower.

It didn’t matter to me that Marty was a Jehovah’s witness. Some of our classmates gave him a hard time about being one, but they were also the same kids who called me ching-chong Chinese. Marty also happened to have the thickest lips ever, because of some skin condition, but that never bothered me either like it did some other kids. Marty didn’t care when he was made fun of and I always marveled at how he ignored the bullies.

We took our first class field trip together to The Cloisters museum in the 2nd grade. I don’t remember much about the museum except that we ate lunch that day in a beautiful garden that I believed was magical. I remember getting my lunch out and looking around to see everyone else’s moms had packed them sandwiches and juice boxes and cookies or chips.

My mother had packed me Korean kimbap rolls and miso soup and shrimp crackers, and a clementine. Marty was sitting in front of me already tearing into his lunch while I peeled my clementine orange slowly on a napkin. He asked me where my sandwich was.




I took out my Korean ceramic tupperware of kimbap and opened it for Marty to see. Everyone else in my class saw it too and some of them pointed and laughed. I told them it was Korean food and they asked me why there was black stuff all over it. Seaweed.

Ewwww seaweed, some of them had screamed in the tranquil green gardens of The Cloisters.

My teacher had shushed them and given them the eye as a warning.

Then Marty stood up and grabbed two pieces of my kimbap and shoved them in his mouth. Nobody can eat two pieces of kimbap at once. Everyone knows they’re meant to be eaten one piece at a time, the perfect bite.

But Marty chomped vigorously on both pieces of kimbap and swallowed it all, despite nearly hurling it up because he’d never tasted pickled radish or had sticky rice or seaweed before. He then picked up my soup and took a gulp, and it was really so hot that tears welled in his eyes. But he never let on that my mother’s food was anything but delicious, and normal.

Marty wasn’t done though, and he threw a few shrimp chips in his mouth and crunched them between his teeth. Shrimp chips aren’t easy the first time you try them and they can be overwhelmingly fishy in your mouth. If you grow to love them, then they’re just like potato chips. But Marty pretended the shrimp chips were bites of chocolate and not salty fishy bombs. Even my teacher said nothing as she watched Marty’s display of loyalty. I could see she was smiling even with her hand over her mouth.

My classmates eventually grew bored and left me and Marty alone. Marty later told me that his stomach hurt, and I let him lean on me on the bus ride home to Manhattan. I’ll never forget that trip to The Cloisters, but it was the first of many class field trips we’d take together. Marty and I remained friends and classmates until we parted ways after the 6th grade. All the gifted students had remained together for our grade school years, and we got to know each other very well as a result.

Admittedly what I learned about Jehovah’s Witnesses while being Marty’s friend, is nearly nothing. It’s not like you sit around and talk about religion in elementary school. Now all these years later what Cat shared with me is something I’ll always treasure, because it made me think back to Marty.

“I guess my point is..I want my kids to have fun and belong.”

I have no doubt that Cat’s kids have fun and belong and that they always will, regardless of what religious path leads them later. Thoughtful and active parenting beats any religion any day. At least that’s what I believe and dish.

Always dishing,



  1. LoveableNiki

    This story touched my heart, Jun. Thank you for sharing.

    Sidenote: My paternal grandmother (deceased) was a Jehovah’s Witness. I used to go to the Kingdom Hall and door-to-door with her when I visited as a child. I cannot remember much about it, but the congregation seemed like good people who had different religious methods. (Methods is not the best choice of word.) People treat “differences” negatively. It saddens me. I try not to do so everyday.

  2. kcsmum

    I believe that religion helps and leads one to active parenting. For example, I also believe that Marty’s parents were exemplary at child-rearing. I wish everyone had a Marty. I hope he reads your blog and for a minute can relish in being the hero he was.

  3. vivi howe

    Compassion…you are either taught compassion by a “relgion” usually through a story told or read and it wiil have an impact and because parents are involved in their childs life. I have met a few jws and I have great respect for them. I found them to be kind and helpfull, yet never obnoxious pushing their religion unlike other so called “religious” people. I enjoy your daily blogs. They have become my favorite reading. You have become my virtual best friend . Lol,

  4. Marty sounds like someone I would hang out with! Sometimes I think of people who touch me but I lost contact with them and wonder seriously..if they were my angel that day or maybe we both were for each other. Makes sence to hold a door for someone or smile at a stranger ‘cuz you really never know do you. Great blog as usual Jun. Love you.

  5. Josh

    I really hope you find this guy. He’s really made an impact on you after all these years. Although I’m surprised he hasn’t found you or you him, considering you were on one of the biggest reality TV shows of the summer ten years ago, lol…


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