This month at Jersey Cares we are celebrating Women’s History Month by inviting some of our friends to share their thoughts and experiences on the women who have inspired them. Today we feature a piece by Vanessa Martinez, Jersey Cares Service Events Coordinator.
When I was nine years old, I read a quote painted onto a canvas in a museum that said: “I used to cry when I had no shoes, until I saw a boy who had no feet.” It was said to have been an old El Salvadoran proverb, commonly used to state the general truth that no matter how grave our circumstances seem, it could always be worse. Or at least that’s what my grandmother told me.
I understood it, but I didn’t. It perplexed me because I couldn’t possibly picture a child with no shoes, nonetheless, without feet. I further probed my grandmother to explain this. After all, she was an El Salvadoran; she should know what to say. Instead, she said nothing and smiled, which is normal from my grandmother who at times, had trouble understanding my random spurts of existentialism.
The summer I turned ten, I flew to San Miguel, El Salvador with my grandmother. She packed two suitcases full of clothes and shoes she had purchased, which I assumed were for my cousins back in San Miguel. Up arrival, I witnessed firsthand the true significance of the proverb. I saw children, not much older than I was, begging on street corners. I saw them stopped in front of cars at stop lights cleaning windshields for a nickel. I saw them selling candy on open roads, many of them with no shoes. Some with no feet. This saddened me. I felt incredibly guilty and helpless.
My grandmother notices all of this and after some time, she began to open her suitcases full of clothes. She called out to neighborhood kids and distributed the items from her bags. The merchandise I assumed was for my cousins was actually for the children in the neighborhood. That day many children received shoes and clothes. They beamed at her with wide-eyed smiles, some of them even cried.
It was then that I realized how big my grandmother’s heart is and haw far her love extends. She instilled in my the value of giving back even when you know you will get nothing in return. She has taught me so much about appreciating the beauty in all of our circumstances, no matter how grave. So many lives have been touched by my grandmother’s selfless acts of kindness. When I think about the kind of woman I want to be, it’s a no-brainer. This one is for my abuela.