Writing Catalog

Ashley Huang

Grade: 12

Solon High School

Instructor: Nanci Bush

Gather together

Personal Essay & Memoir

Gather together

My home has a perpetual doormat. It's brown, rough, and covered in dirt.

Hospitality and helpfulness are unspoken values in my family. For years, my mom and aunt supported friends and family who lived in impoverished countries, shipping them boxes of necessities and helping them start new lives in the United States. As well as that, my grandparents help raise children from struggling immigrant families.

One day, my grandparents and I looked through old photos from their life in China. We came across a group photo of them with their students. My grandma pointed to one of the students, explaining that he lived far from school, so she often invited him to eat dinner at their house. I later asked my mom about the boy: "I'm not sure which one you're talking about," she replied. "Many students came over to eat dinner with us all the time."

After 50 years, not much has changed. My grandparents are in their 80s now but are still teachers at heart. They still look after other people's children, teaching them Chinese and math. This, to them, is not a job but is simply in their nature. Following my family's example, I try to help other people new to this country or feel out of place. Over the years, I've befriended many new students. For example, in sixth grade, a new student arrived from Korea. She wasn't fluent in English, and I reached out to welcome her. Even though our conversations were limited, my friends and I bonded with her through K-Pop, violin, and hangouts. I'm glad I got to be one of the people who got to be a part of her experience in America.

In seventh grade, a new student I started talking to during choir soon became one of my best friends. She told me how she ate alone in the bathroom on the first day of school and was glad when I approached her and introduced her to my friends. I didn't realize how impactful my small gesture would be.

In high school, I befriended an immigrant couple from China. They were looking for someone to teach them about American culture. The couple reminded me of my parents when they first immigrated to the United States. My parents didn't have many people who could help them when they first arrived in America. So I was inspired to be the helpful resource my parents didn't have to people who share a similar story.

Since my parents came to America, they've always worked at restaurants. As my mom slowly learned English from being a waitress, my dad has always stayed in the kitchen. However, after 18 years of living here, my dad still can't speak English. After all, he never got the chance to practice because he's lived in the kitchen his entire life since he got here. Teaching English late at night doesn't sound like quality time, but for my dad, I knew it meant a lot to him. A few times, I've seen people treat my mom differently and mock her because of her broken English. As a kid, I didn't feel big enough to stand up.

When my parents decided to open their own restaurant, I also started to work there. More ignorant customers would make fun of my mom, but now that I was older, I finally dared to stand up for my mom. Getting first-hand experience of seeing my parents' hardships when trying to adapt to a new country, I aspire to be someone others can rely on.

I never fully understood the concept of overstaying your welcome. In my family, there is no such thing as overstaying your welcome. Once your shoes touch our welcome mat and you enter our house, we always ask our guests to stay and eat with us. My home has a perpetual doormat. It's well-worn, lettered with the words "Gather Together."