BY DOUA THOR, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUTHEAST ASIA RESOURCE ACTION CENTER (SEARAC)
In anticipation of Grandparents Day, which is September 9, the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center is celebrating elders through our “Grandparent Wisdom Project.” In recognition of the wonderful contribution of grandparents—and all elders—to our families and communities, we are asking individuals to submit photos of important elders in their lives and share with us what their elders have taught them.
For example, here’s my submission:
“This is my aunt, Xong Lo. In Hmong culture she is considered a mother to me and the grandparent to my nieces. Like many grandparents in our community, she helps to watch over and take care of my niece. She is 66 years old and teaches me that you can be healthy at any age. She wakes up 5:30 am every day to go running. In the evening after dinner, she also goes for another run. On the side, she eats healthy vegetables and foods from her very own garden.”
The response we have gotten so far has been both heartwarming and enlightening. Because many individuals in our network come from refugee and immigrant backgrounds, a theme that runs through many stories is the separation of families as result of the wars in Southeast Asia and of young people never having had the chance to meet their grandparents. For example, Mia-lia writes:
“I never met my grandparents. They were killed during the Khmer Rouge Regime before I was born. Although we were never in the physical world together, they remind me every day of my history, the resilience of my family and my people, the strength of spirituality and love, and my responsibility to do what I can to make our world better.”
These photos and accompanying messages remind me of how fortunate I am to have the love and support of elders in my life. The origin of Grandparents Day is attributed to Marian McQuade of Fayette County, West Virginia, and in 1978, President Carter proclaimed the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day. In a society that is often obsessed with youth, Grandparents Day is a reminder to all of us of the important contributions of the elders in our lives and why we should cherish them. To see more photos and stories and to submit your own, visit SEARAC’s Grandparent Wisdom Project on tumblr.