It has been forty years since he stepped into my story on my family's farm, that young man from Mexico who traveled to the frozen tundra to learn alongside of us how to farm the Wisconsin way, forty years since I signed up for Spanish as a high school freshman so that I could speak his language and help him better understand and be understood, forty years since he helped me become a global citizen who would wholeheartedly connect to and fall in love with another culture and its beautiful people. Four decades; that's a very long time.
I joke that he stole my heart; truth is I did have a little crush on him.
And though it has been forty years, I firmly believe that it's because of Carlos that I just spent four glorious days with some of the kindest, gracious, and most passionate people around.
Here's how it worked:
Carlos moved to our place right before I registered for high school; I decided to learn Spanish, because of Carlos. And even though the winter was too harsh and he returned to his home down south before I could say much more than Hola and Me llamo Barbara, it's because of Carlos that I was determined to master the language. Because of Carlos, I crossed the border as a sophomore, traveling to Mexico City, Guadalajara and Guanajuato and racing up the pyramids of Teotihuacan with a small group from my high school. Because of Carlos, I continued my studies in college and, after ten years of studying the language, I earned a minor in Spanish. And because of Carlos, I taught Spanish for ten years.
Flash forward twenty years; if Carlos hadn't taken that step into my story, I'm not sure I'd have even learned Spanish, much less moved to Texas to teach it. From there, who knows if I'd have studied counseling and become so interested in character education. And if not, then I likely wouldn't have given the keynote address in D.C. at last year's Forum, where members of the Secundaria Tec de Monterrey school family first met me and extended the invitation to join them as a presenter this past weekend at their Character Congress in Juarez.
Because of Carlos, I said yes to Juarez ...
where I left a huge piece of my heart yesterday.
When I was in Mexico, this ad came across my Twitter feed.
It basically says, "After they washed me, nothing was the same."
It gave me the idea to turn the dial slightly and change it from a negative experience to a positive one, from a fixed to a growth mindset.
I closed my presentation with this photo from Friday night's dance:
After the 5th Character Education Congress, nothing was the same.
I am not the same ...
I am better ... because of Juarez ...
So today I'm wondering this:
Who in the world is your Carlos? Who has taken a significant step into your story and made it better? Do they know just how far their influence has positively rippled? Have you thanked them? And how will you repay the favor?