This I Believe

Elyse - Bellingham, Washington
Entered on October 16, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

I Did Not Realize I Had a Voice Until I Began to Listen

I believe that everyone deserves compassion. I have gone through my life trying desperately to understand my role as a community, family and religious member, often asking myself what it is that I can possibly give to the world that could be important. I did not realize I had a voice until I began to listen to the tale of my parents, which is unconventional, explicit and real: it is my inspiration.

My mother and father collided; literally there two worlds’ merged and volcanic eruptions must have happened, because they could not have been more different. My father was a Mexican hot head hailing from the gang ridden streets of Chicago, while my mother was a German/Irish, cool tempered island girl that thought he was showy and ridiculous. She did not like him and he took it as a challenge. But he made her laugh and in turn, she listened to his story. My father was never loved and did not know how: my mother was not loved and wanted to know how. It must have been the haze of marijuana smoke or the Grateful Dead music playing in the background, but for whatever reason, my father opened up his life to my mother and she inhaled it as though it were her first breath. He needed her.

It has been thirty- six years and my mother is still standing proudly by my father’s side. They have both made mistakes and their relationship has not been perfect. Through drug addictions, racial discrimination and poverty, they have held on tight to one another. I have often asked my mother why she let down her guard and took interest in my father. She replied that when she was listening to him, she saw the potential, the good in him that no one else had taken the time or effort to notice. She believed in him and loved him because he had struggles that were like her own.

My parents have taught me that everyone has a story and that it is their right to tell it and be heard. They have shown that racial and ethnic lines hold no boundaries and that we are all alike and united in one way or another. We have all struggled through pain and loneliness: have found it impossible to understand this world and our stance in it. But the greatest gift we have been given is to listen and let the story of others inspire our own, as my parents have for me.

I believe that everyone deserves compassion, because what they have to tell may just ignite the story within each of us.