Adele and Joel Sandberg, the parents of Facebook COO and Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg, came from families who immigrated to the United States in the late 1800s ― and these experiences from both sides hugely shaped who they are today.
In the newest episode of HuffPost’s parent-child interview series Talk To Me, Sheryl sat down with Adele and Joel to discuss everything from the family’s history to the life lessons they’ve learned over the years.
For Joel, his grandfather imparted a very practical skill upon him ― the art of sewing.
“He came from eastern Europe in the 1890s and was a tailor. So when I was six or seven years old, I would go up to his apartment and he would teach me how to sew a straight line and how to sew on buttons,” he said.
Interestingly, Joel’s love for sewing foreshadowed the career path that he would eventually follow. Perfecting that skill served as a “precursor to becoming a surgeon,” Sheryl added.
Adele looked back on her own family’s immigrant roots and remembered her grandmother, who lived in a “rundown” Lower East Side tenement building in New York City. It was her “hard work and determination” that pulled Adele’s family out of poverty.
“The childhood hardship just strengthened her character. In fact, we had a nickname for her. We called her The Rock because she was so strong and steadfast and she worked hard all of her life,” Adele said.
Despite the difficulties her family faced, Adele’s family still managed to give back. She said that her great-grandmother remembered the less fortunate in both times of happiness and in times of hardship.
“[My great-grandmother] used to have these small cans where you put coins in for different charities,” Adele said. “... If it was a bad time she would say, ‘Children, God will hear our prayers if we remember the less fortunate’.”
That unique immigrant experience, characterized by sacrifice and incredible resilience, is one that many people still have today.
“You think about the sacrifices that people made to come to this country and start a new life and a lot of those sacrifices are still going on today,” Sheryl said. “There are still people who give up everything and come here in search of a new life. I think those stories of resilience are inspiring to all of us.”
Hear more from Sheryl, Adele and Joel Sandberg in the video above.