Essay by Jenny Cox, 21 years old
First Place Winner
I’m sad to say you will probably never meet me in this lifetime—few people have. I wanted to tell you, and all Second Generation, so many things—things that could help you, that could begin to clear the fog in your mind. You are young—vulnerable to both the truth and lies of the world. All your life, especially the last few years, you've doubted me and sometimes have even rejected me in your heart. But I've never stopped loving you.
I understand why so many Second Generation, you included, doubt the beliefs they grew up with. Childlike acceptance of parental beliefs mellows into adolescent rebellion. It's only natural that as the mind develops, a young person seeks to find his or her true identity. A key part of that discovery lies in separating from seamless unity with one's parents. You only unlock your independence when you can say with conviction, "I am," "I want," "I believe."
You won't be able to find God until you make this step. There is no true happiness or peace in simply echoing what your parents believe. God wants to hear you speak with your own voice! You didn't walk the same path as those before you; following their footsteps numbly won't lead you to what you are seeking.
Your road runs under stars and wintry skies, through unmarked snow and featureless plains. There is no knowing where the trail may end. But the horizon holds endless opportunity and promise. You will be guided there by angels and good spirits. Many maps have been drawn out by philosophers and saints, but there is always a new course, untouched and uncharted, waiting for you alone. It may run close beside others, or you may walk alone. But all paths, rough or stony, thorny or trimmed, must eventually go to God.
But be careful, my child--be wary of the wild beasts that hide in the dense forests. This world is not God's, and there is plenty to beware. Don't think for a moment that the tigers won't snap you up, or that the cliffs won't tempt you over. Traps always look beautiful to the eye, but hold dark pits of secrecy within. In this jungle it is easy to mistake friend for foe, joy for despair; vain dreams will look far pleasanter than the truth.
Always choose the path that seems difficult, for those are the ones that will lead you through adversity to God. The choppy seas that teem with fish, the formidable mountains that hide green valleys—conquer these, and you will conquer yourself. The world will open up to you, and no longer be a den of terrible mysteries. The lotus that burrows in mud before blossoming to the surface is the most beautiful flower in creation.
Don’t be afraid to use your freedom to find your true voice. Live well and seek beauty.
Essay by Camille Alves
July 28, 2014
There is always that moment that arises in life where one's actions can write one's future. Sometimes it can take the course of a person's lifetime to unfold or it can happen in the blink of an eye, passing so quickly that before the individual can spot it, the moment is gone. There may come other such opportunities to pluck out of the ever flowing river we know as time, but will they all be as significant as this moment?
The kind of truly life changing moment had arrived and it came officially in a letter. This was no ordinary letter. The envelop was soft and white, with two cranes about to take flight etched in golden thread. It felt heavy with purpose, yet it emitted a warm glow that seemed to say, “My contents are of the utmost importance, but don't let that discourage you.” However, the astounding part was not that it was sent from Rev. Sun Myung Moon himself, but that it was addressed to me.
I wish I could say that I was filled with a deep calm when I finished reading the enormity of what this letter contained and that I accepted with absolute conviction, but I didn't feel I was worthy of what I was being asked. I could not doubt the request of the living messiah, but I could doubt myself. How could someone as important as the True Father ever beseech such an undertaking from someone as unqualified as me? By society's standards, I wasn't successful via the simple fact I held no college degree or prestigious position. There was no deed with my name emboldened in black ink, or even a license and registration stamped with the same mark proving I had any right to any earthly assets. How could the messiah put this kind of faith in someone who even lacked a permanent address?
The more I thought of how unworthy I was of this kind of trust from the one person who has been able to completely reach God's heart, the more grievous I became. I wish I could measure up to the sort of person True Father believes I could be. Am I faithful, loving and courageous enough to announce to the world my beliefs, and then put it into practice with my whole heart? All these doubts weighed heavily on my mind as I read this beautiful letter created by this man who had lived a life full of strife and woe as he fought valiantly to restore goodness to a spiritually and morally bleak world.
Then, amid the dark worries of doubt and self-flagellation, the truth hit me. Tears trickled down leaving smudges on the crisp pages, dampening the lines filled with the words of love, understanding, encouragement, and mild admonishment. The message that I was receiving was a kin to the way a father would leave his last will and testament to his surviving child. It was something I would never forget. His words touched me to the core, penetrating the uncertainty in myself. Closing my eyes, I could see them as if I were reading them again for the first time:
My dear child, there is much I need to share with you and precious little time to do so. Our Heavenly Parent is calling my name, and I am moving beyond this temporal realm. I know in my heart that I have accomplished all that I was sent to realize in my lifetime.
When you read this letter, I will already be in the hospital. The events that are meant to take place are already unfolding. There will be a lot of confusion, disbelief, indignation and anger after I pass. I am writing to you now so that, may you assent to my proposal, you will be prepared for what is to come. The road of righteousness, self-sacrifice, and true goodness has never been an easy one to walk. It is fraught with loneliness, heartache, and despair. However, if you persevere with passion, conviction and a pure heart, you will surely reap the victory. I have spent my whole existence offering everything that I am to bring our Heavenly Parent even one moment of happiness. Through all the incredible hardships, True Mother and I have never wavered.
I am sharing these declarations with you now so that you may better understand what I am asking of you. You believe yourself to be far from my ideal candidate and that I am mistaken in leaving you in charge of a small portion of what needs to be accomplished, but you are the one who is misled. I chose you not because you held a high position, attended an elite school or owned a magnificent home, though all those things hold value, but because you sincerely regard yourself as undeserving. You declared that you are unfit and imperfect to even hope to be considered, yet you pause to reflect if your thoughts are genuine and pure. You also wonder if your faith is strong enough to withstand the perils in life. Thus concluding, you are humble enough to recognize what is weak within yourself.
The fact of the matter is the whole world is struggling to come to grips with the value and purpose of our lives. Our Heavenly Parent needs everyone to accept that we are His profound and unique children. Those of us who understand this reality, are being called upon to act. Many more individuals are receiving a letter urging them to continue to fight for heaven's sake. If people choose to work together to obliterate evil from this world, little by little everything can be returned to our Heavenly Parent. So please do not waste any more precious time worrying about being unworthy, for we are all unworthy. Regardless of that fact, our Heavenly Parents, the True Parents, your ancestors, and the world needs you to carry on. If you choose to accept this mission, even though it will be difficult, I promise that you will never regret deciding to aid heaven.
Upon reviewing your particular strengths, I am commissioning you to write True Mother's biography. I feel you would be able to capture her life without imposing your own ego. This task has to be handled by someone who has compassion, sincerity, and the desire to accurately describe the beauty of her journey.
It may have occurred to you that this proposition seems premature in execution. There is a reason for this. True Mother wishes for someone to hear her life's course first-hand. It is crucial that this be completed before she passes to the spiritual world. My autobiography was the first step in bringing insight to the masses. True Mother's biography will be the second step to touch the hearts and souls of women, who in turn will share this love and guidance with their families. This way humanity shall know God through the eyes of the father and the heart of the mother. What better way to know you are loved and cherished, but through parents.
Pausing for a quiet moment to wipe my tears, I closed the letter gently. I knew in my heart that when the weeping finally ceased, my answer would gratefully be...yes.
Essay by Jin Soon Brancalhao Stephens, 22 years old
Third Place Winner
Sometimes I’m very angry. I’m angry at the world for the way it is. I’m angry that the one’s I love suffer so much, and I’m angry that you are no longer with us in the physical world. In fact, when I first received your commission, I was very angry at you for entitling this task to me—the task “to love with the most powerful, fiery love.” You see, I thought you would know how upset I am, so how could I possibly be capable of the love you ask of me? To love the world even if it’s filled with injustice, to love my loved-ones that much more because they suffer, and to love you even when you’re gone—how could a person with so much anger do this?
And then I remembered how I would sometimes see that same anger in your eyes, and realized that it reflected something else—that anger was the burning and riled-up passion of love inside you. I kept thinking, how could it be love—especially true love? But I understand now. True love is not some color-less, gentle, careful thing. No, true love is lurid, fiery and full of life!
It dawned on me at that moment that this is the true love you need me to use and make a difference in this world. There’s not enough time for a patient, quiet love—you need a love that can move mountains, and this strong love can do that. You need a love that can light up hearts, and this fiery love can do that. You need a love that can wake up minds, and this brash love can do that. Anger is one of the strongest emotions, and the strength we can derive from it, if directed correctly, has immense value. It is an anger that sparks so the world notices.
This passionate anger will be able to drive an army of love—it may be tough love, but tough love make things happen. Sadness often cannot motivate, cannot cause a change or help others feel loved. I know now, that oddly enough, you want me to use this anger to love others. I must use this anger as strength, not a weakness. We go through our lives not seeing how the characteristics we believe to be our weakness can often be our greatest strength.
So I will do it. With all the passionate anger in me, I will turn that into a love that’s loud and powerful. It’s a love, much like when someone is in an angry fit, that doesn’t care what others may think and continues to love anyway. I will turn that into a love that is not afraid to disturb the peace—a love that is explosive and truly causes fireworks, the most beautiful kind.