I often get asked to write recommendation letters–rare is the case that I can’t wait to write one.

Two high school students visited TNKR last year, they wanted to volunteer with us. I discouraged them from tutoring, I suggested they should find a different way to volunteer. When I do that, some high schoolers will disappear, probably seeking a school or organization that would allow them to tutor because they have heard it will help them into college.

Jun and Eugene, on the other hand, actually listened, and tried to figure out how they could help. They started by making a video, then did a shakedown at their school to raise money for TNKR, after that they organized a forum for me to give a speech at their school, then a forum in Seoul featuring me and three North Korean refugees. That’s when their mothers truly got involved. As they told us yesterday, seeing their sons so inspired by TNKR energized them. I was stunned as I listened to their plans for a big event in September.

There are some people who come to us who act like they are free agents able to act at will within TNKR, some others want to tell us what we should be doing differently even before they understand what it is we are trying to accomplish and our particular approach. The smarter they are, the less likely they are to listen to us, determined to teach us (during their short time with us), what we should do and how.

I am taking notes, so I can write the longest recommendation letters for the students if they ask. When you have a small organization, you get used to people questioning or lecturing you, so it is unusual to have people who study what it is you are doing and find a role for themselves to bring energy and value.