Nalini Joseph: Share stories, wisdom with children on path to greatness

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 27, 2020

By Nalini Joseph

I have often reminisced about my childhood Christmases in India.

In a primarily Hindu country, the Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Jains all celebrated Christmas with our small Indian Christian community. It was a special day. It was church in the morning with each child “fancy dressed” in their brand-new tailored Christmas outfit, followed by a huge Indian feast with all the relatives crammed into our grandmother’s home. The party would not and could not begin without the older generation present.

Our grandmother, aunts and uncles would tell us stories about their childhood and their days living under British rule. We heard about the partition (between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) and the Hindu Muslim struggle. We heard about school children running for shelter when the sirens began to howl during World War II. We heard about how our grandfather died at 40 from cholera, which he contracted while making a pastoral visit to a parishioner’s home in Calcutta.  What I know about East and South Asian cultures and people such as the Chinese, Japanese, Sri Lankans and Koreans is that they, too, elevate and give a platform to their family patriarchs and matriarchs.

Nalini Joseph

Dr. Jay Bolin, a good friend and professor at Catawba college, is of Korean descent. I had the pleasure of eating Korean short-ribs and chap chae at his home while his mother and relatives visit for a few days. It’s customary for Jay’s mother, grandmother, aunts and great aunts to take over his wife’s kitchen, cooking for hours and sharing stories with their children and grandchildren about Korea and their childhood.             

In contrast to the Asian people, Americans in general tend to focus heavily on the newest generation — our children. When we get together as adults, we spend a lot of time talking and laughing about our children. We sacrifice much of our day thinking about and planning for our children. We give weight to our children’s personalities, lives, activities and accomplishments. As Americans, we are always looking for the latest trends, the “new and improved” products and the most progressive ways of conducting business.

I notice that many American children don’t automatically make eye contact or say hello to an adult that they recognize when they pass them on a walk or in a store.

It’s usually the adult who stops, says hello and then fishes for information about school, sports or friends.

This week, my son and I are focusing on the spirit of counsel.  We talked about how it’s important to surround oneself with those who will offer good counsel or advice.  Good counsel often comes from years of life experience, from successes and failures, from heartache and joy and from persevering through seasons of drought and famine. This kind of knowledge is what we call wisdom.

Eastern cultures are naturally programmed to look to their elders for good counsel; elders have wisdom that can only be attained through years of struggle, hardship and overcoming. Children are smart, innovative, creative, and so many other things. But what they are lacking very often is wisdom. A child may have great intelligence or possess a great talent. However, if your child is not wise, this intelligence or talent may be rendered useless as they grow into adulthood.

To make wise decisions, your child needs to hear the stories of generations past. They also need to see you, mom or dad, connect with your parents or other older relatives on topics that concern their parents’ youth and life experiences. Your children need to see your interest when you hear these stories (sometimes for the seventh time) and they need to sense your respect for their age, their wisdom, and their ability to withstand the storms of life.

This Christmas season, talk to your elders about sharing their stories with your children. It doesn’t matter if your children don’t fully understand the context or details of their stories. Your child will understand history, geography, business and life a little better the more time they spend with their elders.

Once our elders are gone, their wisdom and life experiences are only remembered if they have been allowed to tell their story.                                  

Joseph is a resident of Salisbury. She is the proud mother of 10-year honor-roll student, Rohan Joseph, who serves his community as president of COVID Busters. Email her at