“People call me crazy, but in a good way,” said Dag Mook Kim. He is 74 years old, a taxi driver, a passionate ping-pong player, and a self-proclaimed Jesus freak.
Kim immigrated in this country in 1969 from his native Korea. “When I came to this country, I was full of negativity, jealousy, hate, and meanness,” he said. “I thought there must something wrong with me. So, I asked Jesus to help me.
“Through endurance, I changed, and slowly loosened up. If you work at changing, Jesus will help you. I’m still changing.
He paused and gestured at the shoppers and downtown office workers walking past us. “Some people grow slow, some fast – everyone’s different.”
He told me that his hero is Frederick Douglass. I was intrigued that an Korean had a African-American hero. So, I asked him why Douglas. “Because he came up from nothing,” Kim said, “he was a slave, and made it to the top.” Okay…I thought. I asked him did he have any other heroes. “George Washington Carver,” he said without hesitation.
I was impressed that he knew about these great African-American men. “I get it,” I said, “he was a slave too.” Kim just nodded.
Kim started talking fast, er, faster. He reached in his taxi and produced a ping-pong paddle and ball, “My passion is tennis, golf, and ping-pong,” he said grinning, “especially ping pong. I have to do something for fun – I have no talent, but it is still my passion”.
Kim says that when he first went to church, he discovered people were playing ping-pong in the basement. “I went down there and every one of them beat me,” he said. “I got angry and devoted myself to learning. I took lessons. I slowly got better, and eventually beat the best guy. It took a year. But it was a great feeling when I won.”
Kim then looked both ways, stepped up to an empty wall, waited until no one was passing by, tossed the ping-pong ball in the air, and started smacking it against the wall with the paddle. People stopped to watch with a mix of amusement and bewilderment. He kept the ball in play for a few moments then caught it and smiled. “I’m too old for this – I love it.”
Mook attends Presbyterian Church in Greenview, IL.