Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

Karen’s Story

In Soup Kitchen Stories on October 6, 2013 at 9:03 am

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One guest we met through a counseling session is Jinhua Xie and his nine year old daughter, Karen. Jinhua and his wife saved up to legally immigrate to New York from their native China thirteen years ago. They found a home and work here and began a family — their dreams of a new life in America were starting to come true. And in 2009, when their six year old daughter Karen saw a piano for the first time and knew how to play, it seemed that a future was possible they’d never even dreamed of.

There is pride in Jinhua’s eyes as he tells me about Karen’s gift, how he found her a piano teacher straight away who was as amazed as he was. Once Karen had seen a piece a few times she could play it — Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven — there was nothing she couldn’t play.

That was four years ago. Now Karen is ten and playing Rachmaninoff, but times have changed for Jinhua. Like many others he lost his job. Things are tight for the family and he can’t afford a teacher for Karen. Determined to save whatever little he could to put towards Karen’s piano lessons, Jinhua joined the line at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

It was while talking to Jess, one of our counselors, that Jinhua explained that Karen was practicing at home on an electric keyboard. Jess immediately suggested that Karen use our grand piano at the church. Now, Karen practices here and when she’s not in school she plays for our guests and volunteers.

Listening to her play, seeing the transformation that comes over this shy little girl when she puts her hands on the keys is one of the most moving experiences I’ve had since coming to Holy Apostles. Jinhua still hasn’t found work and he can’t afford a piano teacher, but nonetheless he is certain his ‘baby girl’ will play Carnegie Hall, and I am too.

Seeing Jinhua’s pride in his daughter, his hope in the face of adversity, his faith in the future, reminds me of everything we stand for. And it reminds me that every single interaction we have with each guest who comes through our doors, offers us the chance to change a life forever.

Not every guest has a musical talent like Karen’s, but each and every person who joins our line shares that need for comfort, the reassurance that they are not alone and the promise of hope for a better future.

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The Reverend Glenn B. Chalmers
Executive Director

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