4GEN Journal

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Mother’s Day message

 Traditionally a day when we honor our mothers — in person, by phone, with a card or flowers, over a meal, or, as for me, in memory — Mother’s Day also provides us an opportunity for reflection. 

There are few more essential emotional bonds than that of a mother and child. And while we know difficult circumstances, negative behaviors or other problems do arise between parents and children, we’ve all had the need for the nurturing love of a mother — natural, foster, or adoptive — and the support of a caring community. 

Mothers are the original “first responders” who across the eons have given of themselves so children, theirs and others, may be healthier, safer and more able to meet the challenges of growing up. 

Despite the amazing advances in communications technology and medical science, there will never be a substitute for the human contact we all need of loving caregivers of both genders.

I consider myself blessed to have had a loving mother and grandmother in my formative years, and so, too, have our two sons enjoyed that great experience of nurturing women in their lives. 

In special honor of our mothers, please consider sharing a special gift with a charity serving children, a program that works with young moms, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, an agency serving wounded veterans, a service providing dignified care for elders or an advocacy organization affecting policy change on behalf of families. 

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful tribute to our moms, in person, by card, or as a memorial, to give a gift in her honor? Sharing is caring, whether it’s our time or dollars or both!

As part of my 4Generations Institute work, I’ve been collecting family remembrances — stories passed across the generations — which provide a guiding light in my advocacy. 

I love family history because it’s what connects us to the generations of ancestors who preceded us, illuminating the experiences of those who immigrated, made their way and shared their values in benefit to their children.

Recalling our family history also sparks a sense of responsibility to the future in order to create our own legacies and advocate for causes which help others.

I have a document that outlines 100 Family History Questions, a guide for you to record your own family’s story. I would be pleased to send it your way. Just send me an email with FAMILY HISTORY in the subject line.

My Mother’s 

Day reflection

Aaron Cohen and Minnie Golub, both Russian immigrants, lived in the same five-story tenement house on Mercer Street in New York’s Lower East Side. They knew each other only by sight. Since a formal introduction was the respected custom, Aaron’s sister dutifully introduced them in the summer of 1915.

At ages 25 and 24, Aaron and Minnie were the oldest single children in their families. Many around them wondered “What are they waiting for?” as most of their peers were already married. Once the spark was ignited, however, they courted, married, and Minnie became pregnant in three months’ time.

Minnie’s pregnancy was without any unusual problems, but it was it decided she would not deliver at home in their apartment. She arrived at the Lying-In Hospital of New York on Second Avenue a week before her expected due date and was led to a bright and airy ward which she shared with seven other women. 

Two of the women had already delivered their babies but stayed on just to be certain all was well. Minnie, at 25, was the eldest. The two youngest were 16 and 17, one of whom had a complicated pregnancy. That girl was two weeks past her due date, hurting and afraid. 

It was early morning when the sleeping women were jolted awake by the screams. Two nurses rushed in and wheeled the 17-year-old girl off. The others were silent, filled with fear. They looked to their “new big sister” Minnie for comfort.

After 20 minutes punctuated by painful moans, horrific shrieks and a brief chilling silence, there was a baby’s yelp. A nurse came rushing in to Minnie’s bedside and whispered that the young mother died after delivering a healthy girl. Minnie immediately told the others who were paralyzed with shock. She ended the news-telling with plans for a breast-feeding system for the hungry newborn. Minnie was a natural networker before the concept was defined in advocacy literature.

The next night, June 30, 1916, my mother, Ruth, was born. 

News of the birth spread to out-of-town family via telegram. The next morning with telegram and sack lunch in hand, Minnie’s cousin Hannah took the ferry from New Jersey to pay a visit. Entering the large room she saw two babies at Minnie’s bed — one suckling at the breast, the other crying bitterly in a rattan bassinet. 

The cousin said, “Minnie, the telegram didn’t say twins!” Minnie chuckled, and told the story of the young mother who died in childbirth.

The cousin looked at the nursing baby, then briefly examined the crying creature in the bassinet, and said, pointing to the baby at Minnie’s breast, “Your baby is far prettier.”

“That one is mine,” laughed Minnie, pointing to the crying one.

“You leave your own to cry while you feed a stranger’s baby,” the cousin whispered.

“Yes. There’s a baby with no mother, maybe no home. Mine can cry for a few minutes. She has both.”

She motioned the cousin to draw closer, her eyes darting around the room. “This is to show an example to them, those other girls. If we think just of ourselves and our own babies, not only will others needlessly suffer, but so will our own. We all need someone else at some time. This is good practice for being a good mother.” 

Hannah understood. Minnie’s philosophy was simple: Care for your own, but care about others, too. Minnie believed we are all connected in some way under God’s watchful eye, but we are obligated to take action to help others. The gifts we give reward the receiver and giver both.

Please honor me by sharing my message with family, friends and colleagues in celebration of Mother’s Day.

Here are a few mother-friendly quotes which I think you’ll enjoy:

I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life. — Abraham Lincoln

Some mothers are kissing mothers and some are scolding mothers, but it is love just the same....and all good mothers kiss and scold together. — Pearl S. Buck

There is an instinct in a woman to love most her own child - and an instinct to make any child who needs her love, her own. — Robert Brault

An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy. — Spanish Proverb

I look forward to keeping you posted on multi-generational work I’m dedicated to with the 4Generations Institute. 

Through public speaking, seminar leadership and partnering with affiliated organizations, the 4Generations message of building bridges across the ages for mutual benefit is making a difference. 

The Institute’s work is progressing by promoting public policy initiatives, advocating justice for the vulnerable, sharing program models, and inspiring community commitments. 

As an advocate, I’m dedicated to assist those whose mission is creating better policies and more accessible programs to meet the needs of those who count on us, across the generations. Let me know how we can collaborate! 

Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement of my “All Kitchens Advocacy Cookbook,” a publication which combines my passions for making a difference and creative cooking. 

Jack Levine is the founder of 4Generations Institute. He can be reached at Jack@4Gen.org or 850-567-5252. www.4Gen.org/.