Main Street Philanthropy Week 7

This week I interviewed a family member. It is not really something that I do, or even like to do because it is just awkward. But I did this week, and I interviewed my mother. I chose to interview her because I knew little about how she came to America and her story. She told me about her life when she was a little girl growing up in Taiwan, about how everything was militaristic, from the way they dressed to the length of their hair: up to the earlobes for girls, and military cut for boys. Discipline was very strict, and misbehavior or one bad grade led to physical punishment. A bamboo stick would be use to hit one’s hand or knuckles, causing much pain as it struck bone. For a more humiliating punishment, a student might be forced to do frog jumps in the front of the classroom, while the rest of the class looked on, until the teacher gave permission to stop. Squats were the worst punishment, as one had to squat while keeping his hands out, which were sometimes weighted with textbooks. Unlike America, teachers in Taiwan did not encourage children to speak their minds or challenge what is being taught.

When my mother immigrated to America on the last day of 1984, she came with her parents who wanted to give her the best opportunity and the best education they could. My uncles, her brother, had already come for education to stay with their uncle. And her grandfather wanted her father to come so he brought my mother  with her. My mother told me from that experience to “study English before you come to America”. She felt like a mute, like she could not connect with anybody here. She could not express her ideas and felt she had lost her voice coming to this country. It was difficult because her command of the English language was weak, but immersing herself in the big, cultural, melting pot of America quickly taught her the language. Growing up her family’s financial situation was tight. They were a one-income family, and that one person, her father, had served in the Taiwan Air Force, which is equivalent to America’s Air Force I. He was a part of the maintenance team that maintained the president’s airplane. The salary in the military was very low, and the government helped them cover tuition fees as well as supplies like rice, oil, salt, and flour, but times still were hard. They did not go out to eat or see movies like I do with my family sometimes. This has made me put more value in every movie we go out to see or every restaurant we go out to eat in.

My mother told me to always save money for a rainy day and think twice before spending it. She never really bought with abandon the latest technology for us like many families I know do. And she taught me that when saving money in the bank, the interest you make will also make interest, which is called compounding. These lessons have been a part of my life growing up, and I always hesitate to spend money, thinking first if this is really what I need. She has supported the American Heart Association, the Avon Breast Cancer Walk, Autism Speaks, and our local public library. She believes that it is important for young people to learn to give back to society because they are the future and teaching the next generation who will in turn teach the next generation will ensure that our world will never be at a loss for giving people who think not only of themselves but others as well.

From her I learned that giving to others can provide a unique happiness that cannot be attained any way else. My mother told me to be happy with what you have, to be grateful for it and not wish for things you cannot have. I then asked her, “If you could fix one serious problem in the world today, what would that be?” She told me that the stability of society is something she considers a serious problem. There are conflicts between races, and although sometimes it seems as if there is not, racism is always there at the back of people’s minds through subtle behaviors. Through this, hatred is born, and in a world full of hated, there is little room for giving. But we can make room for it. We have to or else we would be surrendering to that hate, and numerous examples in history show that we, as humans, never surrender to hate.

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