If a Lao community has a strong leader would that make a difference?

In a Laotian community, a group of elders always lead the way when it comes to proper etiquette, behavior, social norms and expectations.  Sometimes the group of leaders are formally chosen in community meetings and discussion. However, in the smaller Lao community, it is commonly agreed upon that whoever is the eldest should be the figurehead or adviser to the people.  This is the case in the Lao community I grew up in. The eldest became the prevailing voice in disputes, disagreement or discussion concerning topics ranging from social, political, and economic.  These group of elders are usually at community functions, celebrations, and ceremonies.  They are revered and respected for their wisdom and advice.  They in a sense keep the Lao community in line as well as encourage everybody to be upstanding citizens in the community.  Having a group of elders who are beyond reproach in behavior and decorum provided a strong foundation for the Lao community.  The younger Laotians strived to model their own behaviors after the elders.  Of course, not all were successful, but at least they tried.  When they would fall off the wagon, they knew that they would have to face the criticism or admonishment from the elders  and the thought that they would disappoint was punishment enough. At least my generation, still had respect for our elders to always be aware of our behavior at all times. We held them in high regards because they themselves did the same thing! Unfortunately, some elders are behaving like they are teenagers themselves by getting into public fights and displaying unacceptable behaviors. Without a strong foundation in our community, our efforts of making a difference in the lives of our young people will dissipate.

From 1979 up to 1996, Clovis, New Mexico had a thriving Lao community.  There were at least 100 families in Clovis.  Every weekend there was always something going on at somebody’s house.  We always had some kind of celebration or events such as birthday parties, weddings, graduations, or engagements.  It was not a perfect community, but the elders kept a semblance of order. We respected them and listened to them because they practice what they preach.  The adults in our lives set good examples for us to live by.  I know that in many Lao communities the elders have forgotten their responsibilities to the next generation. 

The role or dynamic of the elders might not have changed for some community, but the new group of elders in some community have become more laxed in their values, expectations, behaviors or social  expectations.  Some elders themselves have deviated from the Laotian way of doing things.  It is disappointing to see some of them acting socially and morally irresponsible by having extramarital affairs, dressing like they are in their teens, gossiping, instigating fights and forgetting that they are a role model for the younger generations.  If the elders in our communities do not uphold a high standard of behavior then can we blame the younger generations for acting up or doing whatever they desire without caring about Lao traditions?


12 thoughts on “If a Lao community has a strong leader would that make a difference?

  1. amphone

    Excellent post Karmadiva, I like it a lot. I would like to ask your permission to use this in my local newsletter I am creatng. What do you say?

  2. Ginger

    It is funny reading this post, funny because it is also true here in our Lao local community. The day that my mom passed away, there were many single elder women that came to our house that day, sort of flaunting themselves, I watched, and listened…here my mom just passed, I don’t think I want a new mommy yet. They acted as if they knew what they were doing, but when asked as to why we do certain things, they couldn’t tell me for they didn’t know the answer themselves. I had to ask the monks for some answers and had to do some reading and research myself. I don’t really know what the future hold for our Lao community, I’m not very active in it, but I do attend funeral services, or Boun at Wat (Buddhist temple), other than that, I just don’t fit in very well because I don’t play card, so I don’t get invited to many of their social gatherings.

    Fall of the wagon sounds painful. 😉

  3. Laotian Teacher

    Well Ginger, I think that is what’s wrong with some of the elders! They have fallen off the wagon and haven’t got back on! Either that or the fall has detrimental affect on their thinking and behavior. It is sad to see these elders not know why we do the things we do because themselves have forgotten what it means to lead the way.

  4. amphone

    Some of the so call elders we have to day are much younger 30 years ago, living in Laos. They care to learn about traditions and customs. What they were then is what they are now. Gamblers back in the days are gamblers now. A lot of our so call elders rely on young elders like us to show them the ways sometime. Keep up the good work Karmadiva. Never quite use to this diva stuff 🙂

  5. Laotian Teacher

    Amphone, I am a diva but a good one! I don’t throw fits and make demands on people. I love people and they love me so I’m definitely not your typical diva. And you are right, we have to lead the way and also remind the generations above us how to act and what is important!

  6. amphone

    Are you snapping at me? I see 2 acclamation marks there miss 🙂

    I like to kid with you because you are very sweet. Who are the typical diva? Let see…Madona, Britney Speer, Britney Houseton? You are a Laotian Teacher Diva! How’s that?!!

  7. amphone

    Hi DallasLao and all, it’s good that we have this discussion. As we speak, I am planning another community event. It is called the Laotian ball. It is an annual event for us here in Atanta. The Laotian Ball has become a seperate entity from the organization that support it. It is run by member of the Laotian American Society 501 c3. The purpose is to celebrate our heritage and come togegther as a community. Proceed from the event goes to our College student scholarship award program we held each year.

    Vounteering is not always easy. We had struggles among our group. After 4 years in running, we survive lord you know what. http://www.lasga.org. Yep, our website showed that we did something to help out. The government sent troops to fight and many had die so our freedom remains. So I think I can handle the community work.

    Our elders had fallen off the rank. They no longer leading the charge. I gave them credit for leading in the past. The ones that should have carry the torch didn’t. As a result we have ourselve a generation gap (leadership), and we end up being the bridge for that gap.

    I feel like my generation is the bridge between the new and the old. We have the knowledge and experience of the first generations’, somewhat. But I am actually the 1.5.

    So, I’m glad we open up this discussion. We have to talk about this. Then, we do something about it. If you are in a Lao community that have no representation, you should try to have one. It is not the elders’ duty alone anymore. Everyone can make a different. We can not depend on the Lao temple only to rally the community.

    Easier said than done, I know.

    So take pride in your heritage and be proud of who you are. Grasp a hold of the torch and keep it burning. Ask to help, don’t wait to be asked. Help them help you help them.

  8. That is a good group you got going there.
    I need to check to see what we have in my area.

    I knew there were a Lao students association and a Young professional association. I tried to contact both of them in the past several time but never got any reply. That was about 4 years ago. I need to get back at it again. If not I might need to start something here myself. If that is the case I might need some advising. 🙂

  9. amphone

    Our group is alright. I am tire. I will take a break next year after the ball. I will go vacation. I will go to swim off the Florida coast. I will go see the Grand Canyon. I will go….

    It take some dedication, planning, and always plan to stay for the long haul. The forming, storming, and norming can take years to achieve. But the Laotian community really got to carry on. Our elders are counting on us to do so.

    It is important to realize one’s root.

    Good day DallasLao

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