Sunday, May 11, 2008

Remembering a Generation

I was at the funeral of the grandfather of family friends yesterday. It's unfortunate that it takes events like this to bring everyone back together but the funeral did bring back a number of memories of my own grandmother who was part of the "old age fellowship" at my church a number of years ago.

My parents were part of a group of tight knit families - brought together more because of common language and goals rather than backgrounds that seemed to vary significantly. At least when it came to growing up in my hometown. This used to be a small (and very "white") university town when they first came over, they were one of the few Chinese families and Christians at that eventually helping to start a local church.

Funerals are when the stories come out about people you thought you knew well. If there's been a constant in the stories told of my grandmother's generation it's been the stories of perseverence through wars and famine, poverty and self sacrifice. It's difficult to imagine the risk they would have been willing to take in order to bring their families across to a land that has been both inhospitable and welcoming, while barely being able to communicate to start all over in the middle of life from zero. It's all the more remarkable how they spent everything they had to put the generation that came after them through school. The focus on education from the beginning made sense as it was one of the few assets any of them could accumulate that didn't depreciate and couldn't be taken away by hostile governments.

They gave up their working lives in a gamble that the lives of their kids would be better. And in this, it's ever more remarkable how my parents' generation flourished - and how that experience has been repeated nationally and internationally within the Western hemisphere with regard to Chinese immigrants and in many cases, immigrants in general (stereotypes do, after all, come from somewhere).

It's probably one of the reasons why I'm passionate about international development and relatively dismissive over the importance of culture. The one thing that gets shared amongst almost all generations and economic backgrounds is the interest that the generation that comes after does better than the generation before. It's pretty sad to watch those like my grandmother and the grandfather whose funeral I was at yesterday pass on, but I can't help but imagine they are anything less than pleased at how things ultimately turned out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So funny that I used the line "stereotypes come from somewhere" earlier today only to see you say that in your blog :) This was a nice entry, accurately states what we know but don't really think about often.