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How Far Into the Future Do Your Efforts Today Matter?

Lulu's great-grandfather
My grandfather was a social worker who led the National Refugee Service during World War II, helping refugees settle into new lives in America. His parents had immigrated from Romania and he was their first child born in the United States.

My family and I were looking at old photographs last night and made an astonishing discovery.

My father’s father—my grandfather and my children’s great-grandfather—was born on June 28, 1904.

Given the fact that the time in Japan is always one day ahead of the United States, the date of my daughter’s birth—June 29, 2004—means that Lulu and her great-grandfather were born exactly 100 years apart.

The sweep of family history

If this is more than a remarkable coincidence—if it has some sort of deeper significance in spiritual terms—I naturally can’t say. Whatever meaning such connections might have on the higher spiritual plane is cloaked in the larger mystery of life itself.

At the same time, this discovery stirs a very tangible significance today.

Though it’s something we don’t often pause to ponder—because we’re generally so preoccupied just living our lives—there is an ever-present and unbreakable thread that stretches from farther back in the past than we can possibly know to the farther future well beyond our own lifetime, tying together the many, many generations of our family tree.

The meaning, for me, of this striking connection between my daughter and her great-grandfather, a man she never knew, is found in the greater awareness it brings to the whole sweep of my family history and the influence I have on shaping the language ability not only of my children but, by extension, their descendants, too.

If one day, far in the future, Lulu has a great-grandchild of her own (and if they’re also born exactly a century apart, I think we can safely call it more than a coincidence!), that child’s language ability will be influenced by the rippling effects of the efforts I make now, each day, with Lulu herself. In other words, though I’ll be long gone from this world at that point, and my impact won’t be felt directly, the more I’m able to nurture firm bilingual ability in Lulu, the more likely she will then have the capacity and desire to nurture a similar ability in her own children, and so on, for the generations of children to come.

Never doubt, then, that your actions today matter—in truth, they matter much more than we usually recognize. They matter not only for the present—for the current language development of our own children—they matter, too, for the potential bilingual ability of the many more adorable children who will one day gaze at our fading photographs of long ago and think of us fondly.

Learn more about the influence my own parents have had on my life and thought…

“I Spoke Both Finnish and English”: I Interview My Mother on Her Bilingual Childhood

Creative Solutions to Challenges Raising Bilingual Children (surprising story about my father)

How about you? Any interesting connections between your children and other family members?

2 Responses

  1. My niece and her brother were born on the same day, but 16 years apart! Her mom says that God only wants her to have children on that day, LOL!

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Welcome to Bilingual Monkeys!

I’m Adam Beck, the founder of this blog and The Bilingual Zoo, a lively worldwide forum for parents raising bilingual or multilingual kids. I’m also the author of the popular books Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability and Bilingual Success Stories Around the World. I’ve been an educator and writer in this field for 25 years as well as the parent of two bilingual children, now 19 and 16. I hope my work can help empower the success of your bilingual journey.

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