I didn’t realize that another way of life was possible. I was quite comfortable living in the adobe home that my father built with his own two hands. I also didn’t mind sleeping in a twin sized bed in a room the size of a small walk in closet. Although I had just stepped into my teen years, I still had a “Smurf” comforter and matching curtains that my mom made for me when I was 5 years old. During hot summer nights, I would open those curtains, prop open my window, and with the assistance of a breeze passing over the waters of the nearby canal, I had the best make-shift air-conditioner ever. A good night’s sleep was absolutely necessary. Even the tiniest interruption of sleep would make the following workday miserable.
At a young age, I assumed my responsibility on our family farm. The concept of a summer break was foreign to me. Summer break meant trading in my classmates for fellow laborers, “braceros”, as my social circle. By the age of 6, I had mastered the art of the azadón and helped my father harvest the chile peppers that we planted earlier that Spring. As tiring as farm life was, it was a beautiful way of living, a simple one filled, with purpose and meaning.
In middle school, I had a realization that life on our farm was more complicated, than I pictured it to be. This realization came to me during my induction to the National Junior Honor Society. The night before, my mother and I had gotten into an argument over what I would wear. I wanted to fit in with my classmates. As a teenager I wanted my attire to fit in with the style that my classmates wore. However, I found myself with nothing to wear but an unfashionable pair of blue slacks, and a hand me down collared shirt that at one time had been my cousin’s, then my brother’s, and now it was mine. However, it was what my mother wore that caused my eyes to finally see what I never had seen before. That night she chose to wear her favorite purple dress. I had always loved to see her in that dress. But that night, I saw things in a different light. That night I realized that she’d worn that very same dress to all my school events since I was in 3rd grade. However, she didn’t wear it because it was her favorite. She wore that dress because it was all that she had. For the very first time, I realized that my family was poor. I realized that despite the rich heritage that I had been raised in, we were, in fact, living a life of poverty. My discovery could have paralyzed me. Instead it taught me to dream. Although I was grateful for all that I had, I couldn’t help but believe that I was meant for so much more.
The following two years took me on a whirlwind of a journey. During that time, I was forced to both face and defeat demons of various strengths and sizes. Some of my battles were due to poor decisions made on my part. Some were due to the evil acts of others towards me. Regardless of who is to blame, the battleground was intense, and I almost lost myself several times. Despite the pain, the struggle took me on a beautiful journey that led me straight to the feet of Jesus. Armed with new-found spiritual freedom, I became resolved to break all barriers holding me captive.
Over 30 years have passed, and time has taught me that I never have to settle for my present circumstance. I have learned to express gratitude with what God has blessed me with, and at the same time I can trust him to empower me with what I need for advancement in life. No, I’m not bursting out the seams with riches. I am, however, am rich with the knowledge of grace, I am privileged to live communion with my creator, and I have been blessed with the skills and ability to provide for my home. Any peek into my fridge or closet lets me know that I’m well provided for. And when I look around, I see myself surrounded by beautiful people that God has placed in my life. I may have not hit the jackpot, or won the lottery, but I have all I need, and more. I’m grateful for God, grateful for my heritage, and grateful that I get to live this beautiful life.