30 June 2011

Generational Choices

When it came time for ALW to start studying a foreign language he chose Italian. For a few days I tried to convince him to study Spanish. Spanish is close to Italian and immensely more practical. He stood firm. See what you get when you give a child a choice!

A few days after our discussion I received a book from my mom about her father’s, father Michael  written by her cousin Tom. Micheal lived in northern Italy. Around 1885 he stowaway on a boat bound for America.
Upon his arrival he was sentenced to work on the railroad. At first opportunity he ran away and headed west to California. When Tom was a young boy he asked his grandfather to teach him Italian. Michael said, “No. When you come inside America, there is a big box by the door and you have to put the way you are the way you talk inside that box. Then you come inside to be American.”

Michael came to America, willing to set aside all he had been in order to escape a system where education, professions, and respect were denied to him (and many others) by the monarchy of the time. He gave up his home and his parents so that his children, grandchildren and all generations following him would have choices and opportunities in education, employment, religion and human rights. So they could direct their futures. 

After reading Michael’s statement on why he wouldn’t teach his grandson Italian I went to my son, ALW, and for the first time asked him why he wanted to learn Italian. He looked up at me and with all sincerity said, “Because it is my heritage.” 

I read to him about his great-great-grandfather crying as I did so. Michael left an oppressive society for one with freedom of choice which allowed his great-great-grandson to study Italian. ALW is now living in Brazil and speaks fluent Portuguese. Monday he sent me an e-mail saying he is going to start learning Spanish because he met a family from Bolivia, they speak Spanish, and it is a language he wants to learn anyway.

What choices of ‘those who have gone before’ helped shape you into the person you are today?

What choices are you making today that will shape those coming after you?