\ When The Going Gets Tough | Christina Brandt

A few days ago, my mother celebrated the 55th anniversary of her arrival here in the U.S.  As did so many others, she left Europe to find a better life for herself   At the age of 19, unable to speak English and with no money to speak of, she arrived by ship in New York Harbor.

She has no memory of the Statue of Liberty because the ship arrived at night in heavy fog, but she does remember leaning on the ship’s rail, wondering what all the twinkly lights were.   The next morning, she couldn’t get over the New York skyline, the height and sheer number of the skyscrapers, and the fact that everyone in America seemed to drive a yellow car (she’d never seen taxis before).

An aunt and uncle took her in, helped her find some new clothes, and helped her find a waitressing job.  Learning English from her customers in the diner and by watching television, she slowly saved her money and built her new life.

For all the remaining years of their lives, my mother helped that aunt and uncle by buying and delivering groceries, cleaning their home when they couldn’t do it any longer, finding caretakers to look after them…whatever  was needed.  They’d given her a chance at a new start in life, and she was determined to repay that kindness in any way she could.

When I remember that story, told to me many times over the years, I think of the lessons in there for me:

  • If I’m feeling sorry for myself, thinking it’s too hard, too scary, or too big a dream, I just remember Mom at 19.
  • If I can find a way to give someone a leg up and help them find their way, I’m going to do it.
  • If there’s a way to thank the people who came before and paved the way to make my life easier, I will do it.

Thanks, Mom.  I’m glad you dreamt big.

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