Thursday, December 11, 2008

Uniting Experience and the Future

‘What a great mission,’ I thought to myself, ‘bringing together older adults and children who need help reading. Older adults benefit because they gain a sense of purpose; children benefit because they gain a mentor, improved literacy skills, and more self-confidence.’

When I was in elementary and middle school, my father, a Navy gunman, spent 6 months of the year out at sea; my mother, a store clerk, worked from 7am-6:00pm. Since I attended schools on the “year-round” schedule (which meant I go to school for a few months and I have vacation for a few months), my vacation time conflicted with my parents’ work schedules. Fortunately, my mother was a friend of many older adults, who lived around my area and for cultural reasons, felt an obligation to take care of me.

My mother is Filipino. In traditional Filipino culture, older adults play an influential role in raising youth. Older adults as an obligation to community well-being, particularly in the rural areas of the Philippines, watch over all children in the village. Grandparents will live with their children and help raise their grandchildren.

I love this aspect of my culture. It is an aspect that I wish American culture embraced more. I chose Generations Incorporated because it provides the opportunity for older adults, as reading mentors, to have more influence in the lives of youth.

But this joining of two generations does more than improve literacy. It gives older adults the opportunity to pass on their life experiences to youth. American novelist and civil rights leader James Baldwin said: "Children have never been any good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them." Generations Incorporated joins wisdom and the future so we never repeat mistakes of the past.
Carlos Livingston is an AmeriCorps State Lead at Generations Incorporated. You can e-mail him at