With compliments to my mom

I got to the garage late today. It was a long day at work. The temperature was falling, and the wind didn’t help any. I stayed in the jeep a few extra minutes to wait until the engine was nice and warm. As I drove down one level to the next, I noticed that some of the cars were slowing down. Two levels down from where I parked was a woman with the hood of her car raised. I turned around and drove back to see what was the problem.

She was an older woman, maybe in her 60s. The first thing I noticed was that she was wearing a state ID just like mine. She was on the phone with someone as she approached the jeep. “Do you need help?” I asked. It was obvious she needed help. It was freezing cold and her car had the hood up. Of course she needed help. She smiled and said to whomever was on the phone that her “knight in shinning armor” had just arrived.

I pulled the jeep in front of her car. Her battery had died. She had been waiting for a while but no one cared to stop and help. She had the jumper cables. I hooked up her battery to the jeep’s and her car started right away. I told her to have a safe ride home, and she said, “My compliments to your mom.”

Rewind several years… or even decades.

Mom drove me to the outskirts of Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, the town where I was born and raised. The part of town where we lived was a development of government-subsidized houses called “INFONAVIT”. That name was the name of the government-guaranteed loan that paid for the house. If you had a steady job, you got a loan for that house. Compared to other parts of Juarez (and Latin America in general), we lived in a pretty decent part of the world. There was running water, sewer, natural gas, public lighting, and paved roads. My school was five or six blocks away, and it was a good school. It was a good place for a kid to grow up.

House in Juarez
This is how the house looks now

Once at the outskirts, I got to see a whole other side of Juarez. The houses were not brick and mortar like my home. They were made of cardboard or insulation. The better ones were made of wood or aluminum siding (and nothing but aluminum siding). This was 20+ years ago, by the way. A lot of these poorer houses have been replaced by developments like the INFONAVIT one where I lived. Nevertheless, I got to see that there were some very, very poor people in the world. While we were not exactly wealthy, I got to have a brick and mortar house to live in. Heck, I got to go to school. A lot of the kids in those shanty neighborhoods had to work to contribute to the household more so than studying.

cardboard house juarez
This is just one of thousands of homes that dot the landscape in Juarez.

Later on in life, mom encouraged me to be the “hero” to people in need. We often would stop to render help to people on the side of the road. That woman is fearless; we stopped even in the middle of night and on the loneliest of roads. So I’d like to think that, yes, compliments are due to mom. She taught me to care and to know that I am living a blessed life… And that I can do more with it than I ever thought I could.

(Slightly smaller compliments to dad for teaching me how cars and other mechanical things work.)

I'm a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. All opinions posted here are my own, of course, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school, employers, friends, family, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen