Editor's note: Readers have a lot to say about the stories we post, and we're listening.
"I sometimes feel insecure being around so many wealthy people and I’m having trouble with my extended family who think I’m being uppity by sending the kids to a private school," Susan Bodnar recalled in her essay, "Don't forget where you came from."
Bodnar shared with readers the experience of growing up in the impoverished coal mining community of McAdoo, Pennsylvania, and her attempts to fit in while attending a university and now that she lives in Manhattan. Bodnar's essay resonated with hundreds of readers, who commented on their own histories, struggles to belong and desires to honor their family members, even as their paths diverge.
Janet Fiedler said: "My life today is so much more comfortable than it was when I was growing up. I have recently re-started searching my family's roots and discovered that my great-grandmother was widowed at the age of 36, three months before giving birth to her fifth child. To support herself and her family, she became a washerwoman. I sat at my computer and cried for this woman and her hard life, comparing it to my soft one. Thank you for your heart-felt article about staying in touch with one's roots."
BlackYowe said: "We are a nation of immigrants and no one should feel shame about where they came from."
Lynn said: "I'm a city girl now... but remain proud of where I'm from. Despite the miles, I believe it is important to give back to the area which formed us."
Chris Esposito said: "I also was raised in a relatively small town with parents who were very young when they had my sister and me. I remember the valuable lessons from my family: hard work, dedication, family values, etc. I have journeyed forth outside of my small home town and was the first to get a college degree. I too have raised my girls to appreciate both small knit family life in addition to exploring the world. I am thankful for the lessons learned from my family and from my later experiences."
Tiffany said: "Boy, it's as if you opened a door into my soul, defining the struggle you so beautifully describe. I grew up in a small SW PA town, Carmichaels, surrounded by coal miner's children. My 'playdates' were on porches of row homes that seem to fall into the weaving roads which led to the Mon River in Nemacolin or on sprawling acres of land where we ran and discovered. We live in the wealthy Main Line now and my children get dropped off at estates for playdates. My children are being raised so differently. Aren't we fortunate, though, to have experienced both?"
Susan Bodnar responded: "Tiffany, I really understand you, from row houses to estates. Anyone who grows to know life's greatest expanse is lucky, although the road from row house to estate is often complicated and tricky. I'm not sure that as many get to embark upon that path as would like to. I wish that were different."
Beata said: "You should always remember were you came from, but never forget who you are now."