The Heritage We Take by Lily E. Wong
I remember standing at the kitchen door watching as my mother cooked. It seemed like magic as she lit the stove, chopped, sautéed, stirred, boiled, and created the most delicious meals. No matter how I try, I cannot replicate those dishes with such accuracy, intensity, and love. My jabbering never distracted her from her task, and I knew that she was listening by the occasional question or measure of wisdom she tossed in. Her comments were never harsh like, “this is what you should do.” Instead, she would whisk up the “what is right in your heart” kind of response. There was a wholesomeness in her delivery, and I swore she could read my mind. Mothers seem to have a knack for that, don’t they? At least mine did. At this point in my understanding, I have learned that mothers possess a sort of Divine Wisdom or discernment. We all have it. It is part of our divine inheritance.
My mother was a missionary in the church. I remember waiting on Wednesday and Saturday nights until she returned from praying with others at the hospital. She made the sacrifice of giving up her career as a nurse to raise me and my siblings. She cared deeply for her patients. I recall hearing many expressions of gratitude from people who credited her for helping with their healing. I thought my mother had a unique, special gift for healing. I now understand that it was through prayer that she enabled others to ignite their own healing abilities.
My mother was of mixed heritage. Her father was a blue-eyed man of Welsh, Scottish, and Irish ancestry. Her mother’s ancestors were of African and Indian descent, brought to Jamaica through a combination of slavery and indentured servitude.
My father was first-generation Chinese born in Jamaica. His father and mother left China in the early 1900’s. My grandfather succeeded in helping prevent the Japanese invasion of China. In fact, a temple in Hong Kong is dedicated to my ancestors. In Jamaica, my grandfather worked as a grocery shopkeeper. The family’s home was attached to the business which was typical of Chinese businesses. They later relocated from a rural part of Jamaica to the capitol, Kingston. My parents eventually expanded the home portion of the business. Occasionally, my father would prepare traditional Chinese meals for us to give my mother a break from cooking.
My father, the first-born of the ten children, was the only one who occasionally spoke Chinese. Since he only spoke it to his parents, it was lost to him when they transitioned. His Jamaican patois was very prevalent by the time I was born. Whenever I became frustrated trying to learn something new. I recall him saying, “Neva sey yuh cyaa duh sup’m”—translated, “never say that you cannot do something.” He taught me that whatever I said preceded the hard work that must be put in to accomplish it.
My maternal grandmother transitioned when I was a baby, and the others passed long before I was born. While I did not get to know any of my grandparents, I recognize they all had things in common. Somehow these people from different continents managed to converge on a small island and to leave a legacy.
What draws us to a different place? Is it the opportunity for a better life, more expansion, more love. I believe it is the God within me, my ancestors, and all of us that seeks better opportunities.
The diversity of my journey reminds me of a quote by New Thought author, Thomas Troward, “My mind is a center of Divine operation. The Divine operation is alway
s for expansion and fuller expression, and this means the production of something beyond what has gone before, something entirely new, not included in the past experience, though proceeding out of it by an orderly sequence of growth.”
This idea of growth is stated in the Jamaica motto: “Out of Many, One People.”
Ministry is about growth in consciousness and a world that works for all. The lessons, prayers, affirmations, actions, and expansion are among the tools I take into ministry.
As we honor our mothers and our Asian heritage this month, we must know that without our past, we would not have the courage and strength to make choices for a better future.
That is the heritage we take with us and the beautiful memories that last a lifetime.