Author says, ‘Bloom where you are planted’

Retired Souderton teacher Julie Henning recalls her life as an adopted daughter of Nobel Prize winning author Pearl S. Buck in her new book “A Rose in a Ditch.”

Sharing her journey “from an alley in Korea to the green hills of Bucks County,” author Julie Henning shows readers how, with enough grit and determination, anyone can better their current situation.
According to Henning, the meaning of the title and the message for the readers is to “bloom where you are planted.”
“We cannot change our circumstances, but we change our responses to those circumstances,” Henning said.
As the book progresses the reader gets to see Henning’s life story unfold.
The early chapters display her difficult childhood in 1960s South Korea, which was often times soothed by her mother’s “sacrificial love” for her.
Her mother, whom she affectionately refers to as “Umma,” the Korean word for mom, did everything in her power to give Henning the brightest future possible.
One of the things that she did for Henning was to allow her to leave home with the Pearl S. Buck Foundation to go to school in Seoul, South Korea.
“I left my mom at the age of 13 to attend school in Seoul. While I was away at school, my mom died. At that time, I was all alone,” Henning said. “I purposed in my heart to study very hard. I studied while my friends played. I studied while my friends slept. I worked because I was scared, I was lonely and I was hungry. I thought that, perhaps with an education, I may have a future.”
The reason that Henning had to leave is because, at the time, public school in South Korea ended with the sixth grade.
Past that, families would have to pay for tuition, textbooks and uniforms for their child to attend school.
Henning did not have the money for this, so she sold gum, shined shoes and washed other people’s clothes to try and save up the money to pay for her education.
Eventually, her “prayers were answered” when she was discovered by the foundation and offered the chance to go to school and be supported by them.
“The Pearl S. Buck Foundation sent a social worker [to my town] and she found me. She was able to send me to school.”
Henning felt “incredibly blessed” for this opportunity to finish school and receive an education.
It was this moment that sparked her inspiration to now do what she can to help kids today facing the situations that she did as a child.
“I remember thinking and asking: ‘Who is paying for my education? Who is allowing me to buy these books? Who is allowing me to buy this uniform so that I can go to school?’” Henning said. “The social worker told me that ‘It’s the generous people in America who send money to help the kids in need.’”
Soon after the November 7, 2019 release of her book, the Pearl S. Buck Foundation nominated Henning for the 2020 Woman of the Year Award.
Henning hopes to use this new platform to reach others around the world and help those in need.
While she doesn’t plan on following in Buck’s footsteps and writing more books, Henning does hope to honor her memory as best as she can, by helping to spread awareness of Amerasian children like herself that are facing the struggles that she once did.
“I am not really a writer; the reason why I was able to write this book is because I have a story to tell,” Henning said. “One way that I can honor Pearl Buck’s life is for me to be an advocate to help the children in need.”
A bible verse that Henning tries to live by is Romans 8:28.
It reads partially that “we know that all things work together for good.”
She hopes that this book will encourage people to start seeing the goodness in everyone around them and to take their fate into their own hands and try to rewrite their destiny.
“I choose to see the goodness in people,” Henning said. “We cannot change our circumstances, but we change our responses to those circumstances.”
In “A Rose in a Ditch,” Henning offers the reader some encouraging words about coping in the face of adversity.
“No matter where you are, bloom anyway. Bloom, bloom anyway,” Henning said. “As long as we have a pulse, we have a purpose.”