We were driving on the left side of road in the middle of a hail-storm in a foreign country. Through the pellets we could see a vast expanse of green and a rolling hillside. It was Ireland in April and we had a long drive to our destination. Six people packed in a mini-van for over five hours led to endless complaints and an eventual stony silence. I sat in the middle row in between my two oldest brothers. I was annoyed. Why couldn’t we have stayed in London for a few more days? Even Scotland was better than this place! But I bit my tongue and stared out the window as my mind began to wander. Being in the land of my ancestors made stumble upon something I had forgotten in the whirlwind of my seemingly infinitesimally important life. Coming from a large Irish family I have heard countless of tidbits of advice and wisdom from my extended family; “Be true to yourself!”, “Be grateful for all your blessings!”, “Never get involved with the British!”. But one piece of knowledge had suddenly surfaced as we drove through the storm. My grandmother, Granny-Ann, once grabbed my hand and told me, 45 minutes before her open heart surgery, “Samantha, you are the luckiest girl in the world, with many opportunities. Pursue your education, it will be your most loyal friend.” I blew this off as another piece of Irish wisdom that didn’t apply to me at this point in my life. But as we approached Granny-Ann’s hometown, the advice kept replaying in my head. The hailstorm stopped as our car slowed in front of a pile of stones in the middle of a grassy plain about five miles from town. My dad announced that this was Granny-Ann’s old house, the one she left when she was 16 years old to come to the United States. I was blown away. This pile of stones used to hold ten kids and two parents, all working extremely hard in hopes of one day leaving poverty for the United States. The dirt road in front of the house was the path Granny-Ann used to walk to school every day, until she was old and strong enough to help her dad with farm work. She never went past the sixth grade. I thought of my biology textbook and vocabulary flashcards, forgotten somewhere in my room at home. I thought of the nights when I chose to talk on the phone rather than study for a math test. I thought of her advice. Her sincere, beautiful, gift to me. A shocking realization came to me as I stood post-storm in front of Granny-Ann’s old house. By putting education aside not only was I taking away a gift that had been given to me, but I was taking away a gift that my grandmother had never had the chance to receive. While this moment did not make me into a completely transformed person, I came to appreciate the hard work of my parents to put me through private school. I came to embrace challenges in school rather than drown in them. I came to envision a future to honor not only myself, but also Granny-Ann.
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