My Intergenerational Ties: Fostering Change
Brielle Young (United States)
The young, precocious five-year-old with boundless energy ran across the street, her sparkly Twinkle Toe Skechers catching the sun's eye. Alongside her was a man in his mid-sixties, his rough, calloused hands intertwined with her soft fingers. Across the street they ran, dodging what felt like vehicles rushing at lightning speed with incredible finesse.
The elderly man, out of breath and sweating bullets through his stretched-out navy blue t-shirt, picked the girl up and nestled her between his arms. She sat there, wide-eyed and curious, as they safely made it across the street and began to move briskly towards the restaurant.
They continued to move as a single unit, her body pressed against the comfort and warmth of his. As they moved throughout the bustling city of Miami, the scent of fresh fruit from street vendors filled her nostrils, and the warmth of the blazing sun beat down on her forehead.
They arrived at La Plancha, a well-revered Nicaraguan restaurant hidden in an overlooked, run-down plaza. The elderly man and little girl were greeted with warm, comforting smiles at the door as ice cold air conditioning cooled their sweaty skin.
They were seated at a table for two, a crisp, snow-white tablecloth contrasting the mustard color streaked across the walls. The elderly man smiled at the little girl, her eyes filled with a love and burning passion for her grandfather. He began to tell her the story of his trek to America, for the first time, in the one place that reminded him most of home.
"There was a war," he began in the broken English that she had always admired. "Your mother, aunt, and grandmother came here looking for a better life for ourselves. We knew that our chances of living were very slim," he said, tears welling in his eyes. "But, I chose to bring my family to this country for them to live. Here, we can live the American Dream.”
The story my grandfather told continues to shape me today. My heritage is something I will always take pride in. As a young, mixed, white and Hispanic female living in America today, I fully understand that, without my grandfather's bravery leaving his home country, I would not have my American freedoms. Even though immigration is met with dangerous strife here, it is essential to provide better lives and opportunities for current and future generations, and I will always recognize the immense difficulty that it takes to get here, as well as the incredible importance of sharing connections with our elders. I am fortunate that my grandfather, who is still alive, continues to share with me not only delicious Nicaraguan meals, but his beautiful language that I now speak fluently, and his experiences living in a war zone torn by dictatorship. In return, I am incredibly fortunate to be able to share my experiences as an American with him through adorable text messages on WhatsApp, video chats, and our weekly Saturday breakfast as he continues to assimilate to American culture and attitudes.
My grandfather sharing his touching, difficult journey helped me realize how important intergenerational relationships are today. Across the United States an epidemic plagues us, rotting away at our moral compasses and presenting fallacies in our thinking: that epidemic is the immigration "issue." Many seem to forget that the "American Dream" is something that is immensely difficult to obtain. Many people outright ignore the difficulties that immigrants face in this country, and they develop preconceived, racist notions about this group of people. However, the story told to me by my grandfather shows that political challenges and social problems can be overcome, and my relationship with my grandfather gives me hope that someday more people will have the courage to speak to older and younger generations about their experiences.
Intergenerational ties continue to foster change and acceptance between differing generations.
My intergenerational ties do.