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New Yorkers Share Mom’s Wisdom

New York subway musician Christopher Campbell thanks his mother for the gift of a spiritual life. (VOA/A. Phillips)
Sunday, May 12 is Mother's Day in America. It's traditionally a day for appreciating the ways our moms have nurtured us and tried to give us a good start on life’s path.

Every day, New York subway commuters are treated to the soulful sounds of Christopher Campbell singing and playing his battery-powered organ for spare change and a smile. Campbell himself says he is a happy fellow, thanks largely to his mom.

“My mother is long gone, long passed, but one thing that my mother really gave me was grounding me in spirituality by taking me to church and just understanding about love and be strong and to have faith, whatever comes,” Campbell said.

It was the faith and trust she placed in him that has meant the most to Dulinda Munasinghe, a Sri Lankan-American working in a photocopy shop.

“My mom gave me all the freedom I needed, and she told me ‘Don’t misuse it.’ And I think that was the greatest help I ever got in my life, because if I were to hold and restrict myself, I would have rebelled or something," Munasinghe said. "But since she gave me all the freedom, I grew up to be a great kid. I think I really appreciate that from my mom and I love her.”

Just down the street, Ian Joscowitz works hard to keep his supermarket clean and his customers and employees happy. His mother is a big part of why.
Ian Joscowitz's mother told him "work is sweet." (VOA/A. Phillips)
Ian Joscowitz's mother told him "work is sweet." (VOA/A. Phillips)

"Something my mother said to me many years ago, she actually said it in Yiddish, but the essence in translation was: ‘Work makes life sweet,’" Joscowitz said. "And it always stuck with me, and it has always been a driving force in my life. You have to feed your family. You have to put a roof over their head. Security. Your family. Leisure. These are the sweet things in life.”

One mother had some hard-won advice to pass on to her daughter, now a young, single mother herself.

"What my mama taught me was basically not to depend on no man and to be very independent," said Alexandra Ferreras. "And ever since then, that’s what I do. I’ve been working since I was 16 because of her. I buy myself everything that I need and what my daughter needs.”

Bill, wearing Afro-centric clothes, says his mother focused as much on past heritage as she did on future concerns.

“When I think of my mother, I think of her instilling [in] me the beliefs and the spirits of the ancestors and helping me do our family research," he said. "Just in a couple of weeks, I will be placing a dedication for my great-grandfather because of a family bible that she inherited. I stand on their shoulders and that’s the important thing at this age. I am 71 now, so hey, I must have gotten something from it."

Gene credits his mom with health and a love of knowledge. “My mother always told me take my time, study, go to school and stay in school. Education brings you a lot further in life. I am 40 now, my birthday just passed, and I am thankful to be living. I am healthy. I have everything to thank her for.”
Mustafa Khan's mother taught him to never to speak ill of others. (VOA/A. Phillips)
Mustafa Khan's mother taught him to never to speak ill of others. (VOA/A. Phillips)

Mustafa Khan’s mother offered practical advice.

“My mother taught me not to talk behind people’s back because what goes around comes around," Khan said. "Now, I don’t talk bad about people behind their back, because if I do, people talk bad behind my back."

For Jan’s mother, wisdom was in the details. "My mother told me that I should always have a nice wallet. The idea was not to buy a cheap wallet, [but] to buy a good one; the reason being is that you see it every day...It’s a combination of practicality and beauty in your life."

Just a few pearls of maternal wisdom New Yorkers will be contemplating amid the flowers, the chocolates, the hugs and the fancy brunches on Mother's Day 2013.