A Heart of Gold

Mia Furuichi Fong, 5th Grade

Immigrants from Japan came to America, believing that streets were paved with gold. They came seeking a better life. Upon arriving, the Issei (first generation) did not find the streets paved in gold but found themselves living in a strange land which was harsh and difficult. What the Issei found was community with the other immigrants from Japan. Together they formed businesses, neighborhood associations, and faith communities. The well-being and love of family and friends was the center of their new lives. They helped each other and provided a sense of security and hope.

My great-grandmother, who I called Bachan, was the only child born to an early Issei. Born in 1914, she grew up in a very close-knit immigrant community. During her early years, she learned about the supportive and loving community that influenced her to be giving and loving. It was obvious, even during Bachan’s youth and young adult years, that her heart was being filled with the specks of gold that her parents came in search of so many years before. Bachan, was known to be generous of heart, kind, loving and faithful to her friends and family.

Bachan returned to the Bay Area after living for three years in an internment camp in Topaz, Utah. With her parents, her husband, and three young children, Bachan found “home” to be at her local church. Along with several other families, she and her family once again found a loving community. Bachan could often be found being the center of a support system that aided and gave hope to many families. She became the interpreter for many of the Japanese speaking people who were applying for jobs, seeking to enroll their children in local schools, and looking for places to live. During this time, Bachan’s heart continued to be filled with golden particles…now those particles came from those she helped.

Throughout her many years, Bachan selflessly helped countless numbers of friends and acquaintances, even strangers who she might meet on the street or in a shopping mall. Up until her late seventies, she would drive her “elders” to doctor appointments, shopping excursions, and meetings. They all became family. Even as her own family of six grew through marriages, her “other” family continued to grow, filling her heart with much love which was returned to her in many ways.

Bachan’s love and devotion to family and friends is a legacy that has been passed down to her family. Her children continue to give back to the community and share her “golden heart” with so many. Bachan is an inspiration to me because she taught me how to be forgiving and helpful to others. As I get older, my memories of her will continue to influence my life.

My Bachan deserves a beautiful gold medal, but she would say, “My heart is already full with golden rewards”. That is why it is important for me to continue her legacy of being generous and loving!