Indebtedness

Even before the age of seven, I had begun to work, whatever I could find, from ironing the clothes of strangers, to mowing their lawns, to washing their cars. At seven, it was necessary to find something more. I bicycled as far out of town as I could, to a depot where labour contractors gathered migrant Hispanic workers onto buses, to take them out to the fields to work. The labour bosses all laughed at the scrawny kid soliciting work. They could not have known how desperate I was. For me, stubborn in my refusal to ask for help, it was a matter of survival. I was not begging; I was determined. An Hispanic man observed my plight. Approaching, he volunteered to take me with him and his family. His name was Refugio Lopez. Language barrier aside, struggling to keep up, gently urged, encouraged, I did it. One day, then the next, every day with the Lopezes, throughout the season. With a humanity never before felt, their embrace as a family saved my life. I can never repay that debt directly to them, but my hand and heart have always been and will remain open to all Hispanic people.