Holiday Greetings from Margaret W. Wong and from Margaret W. Wong’s sister, Rose Wong.
Dear friends and colleagues,Happy holidays! This is the second year that we have not had our annual “thank you” party. I miss seeing a lot of my close friends and colleagues and clients at our office.
For years, I traveled four days per week to visit our other offices around the country. That stopped in March of 2020. Since then, I have been coming into our Cleveland office every day. It has been great for me to get back to my old Cleveland routine. I started the first few days of the pandemic trying to work from home, but I just could not focus with so many distractions. Some of our colleagues have been able to work remotely with success, but most have returned in-person to the office.
I had a wonderful one and a half years reinventing our office, our workflow distribution, and redefining the meaning of “work” in today’s global and fast-changing immigrant world. Our firm went through a lot of turnover and shortage of workers this past year. It was eye-opening to try to advertise, interview, and hire new staff, and learning that money by itself was not enough to maintain a talented workforce. Despite our staffing difficulties and the challenges of working through a global pandemic, we have had fun doing excellent work, winning cases, and adding meaning to the definition of a “win.”
Immigration work has become more nuanced and difficult through the 45 years that I have been working in the field. No meaningful laws have changed since 2001. The same green card quotas have been in place for the last 50 years. Immigration courts have been opening and closing without advance notice due to pandemic-related policies. Cases that were prepped and ready to go were canceled. Cases that were scheduled for far in the future were rescheduled and advanced with little notice, forcing us to hustle at the last minute for updated documents from clients. I have not seen the fear in our clients’ eyes like they have now until the past few years. Their fears are palpable, and I can feel their negative energies. I am reading a lot on the negative energy growing in service industry workers. Family and professional priorities are mingled together in the daily tasks of our staff. Single parents are especially affected, taking care of children stuck at home when schools were closed. We have quite a few new and expecting parents in our office. That is so exciting. From them I learned about the lack of childcare options. When the child is sick, the day care sends her home, and someone must look after her. Our business is affected if our workers cannot come to work. This leads to a chain reaction affecting our productivity and our clients. It is not easy to be a working parent these days.
I am so proud of our clients. I watch them grow, with their good jobs and entrepreneurship. Those who have work permits and driver licenses and social security numbers are thriving. These are privileges that U.S.-born persons take for granted. Most of our clients have been here for years and years and started with nothing. Many are now successful and filing tax returns. I respect them so much for doing so well. After observing our staff and our clients, I feel that so much about the world has changed. People passed away from the virus without insurance, or left their underpaid jobs, or lost their jobs because they have no papers and lack the resources to seek advice.
My 3 siblings and I have 9 children and 6 grandchildren. None of our grandkids live in Cleveland. This Christmas is the first time they’ll come home with their parents and their dogs to celebrate the holidays with the whole family together. I can’t wait.
I feel bad that my husband Kam and my parents didn’t have the chance to meet the grandkids. But I know they are up there watching us and are giving us their blessings.
This year I received 3 awards in Cleveland: Outstanding Philanthropist Leadership Award, the Cleveland Heritage Medal, and the Cleveland State University Law School Hall of Fame. I am so honored and humbled.
I wish you the best during this holiday season and for the coming new year!
Margaret W. Wong
When I was younger, I thought that everyone over the age of 65 had achieved their goals and reached their eventual destination in life. From that youthful perspective, I still had a long way to go; like you used to say, a child can scarcely imagine spending the entirety of $10 or 10 years. Sixty-five was light years away, and it was somewhat reassuring to know that I still had lots of time.
Things were simpler back then; survival was the ultimate destination, and hard work was the only means to get there. Guidance was limited, especially when I first came to the United States, and choices were often reduced to something between a rock and a hard place. All decisions and roads seemed fraught with danger and the promise of failure. But when panic and self-doubt threatened to set in, I would hear your whisper, as surely as I see the sun and moon, “Don’t think; just do. Don’t veer. Keep going. You’ll get there.”
You have always been my ever-present and reliable North Star, guiding me through the toughest terrains and the darkest nights. If I knew then what I know now, I am sure I would not have taken all those risky paths, but then I would not be who I am today. I have finally realized, and come to accept, that life is not a zero-sum game. All those seemingly wrong choices led me to places and people that I never knew existed; at the same time, I gained invaluable insights and experiences that no school can offer.
The years have taught me to recognize that mistakes can present opportunities for learning and gaining various life tools, which I can store in my ever-expanding toolbox to aid in my travels. Now, in what seems like the blink of an eye, I find myself in an unfamiliar landscape, somewhere north of 65, and the long anticipated “there” is nowhere to be found. All I see are forks in the road ahead and no signs as to where they lead.
So here I am, pondering yet again which path to take, with more choices than ever before in front of me. Though the roads seem smoother and the view clearer, the vehicle in which I now travel has seen its days, needing more frequent oil changes and repairs. But the road ahead beckons, and I know deep down that stopping is not an option, however tempting it may be.
So Dad, armed with your guidance and the toolbox I have built along the way, I am confident I can pick a road, any road, and everything will work out in the end; there is no right or wrong path. If I feel I have made a wrong turn, which I am sure will happen, I can always choose to keep going and see what new adventure awaits. Maybe one day I will finally get “there,” wherever “there” is.
This is the 25th year you are not here with us to celebrate Christmas, Dad. I am sure that you and mom are preparing for a spectacular celebration with all of the loved ones we’ve lost, and though there is some solace in knowing that you are in good company, I still miss you as much as the day you left.
Your third daughter,