I became a very quiet 10.5-year-old little girl after my father passed away from a heart attack in his sleep. I was emotionally shocked and very short in conversation. My Mexican family culture taught me to not talk about my father's death, nor how to work through grieving the loss. I was daddy's little girl; how could he had left me!? Why!? I'm the youngest of thirteen siblings, all of whom were born and raised in Mexico. But after my father passed, the family could no longer make ends meet and had to migrate to California, into Monterey County, known as the agricultural salad bowl of America. I started my new life there in sixth grade, learning about a new culture in a language I didn't speak, without the financial stability that most families in the district seemed to possess. I was teased and bullied for my differences, including wearing hand me downs from the Salvation Army.
All I wanted was to be accepted and for others to live out the lessons my father had tried to instill in me: be respectful to everyone and respect others the way you'd like to be respected. He taught me to stick to my values saying, "When you are older you'll understand; always greet others as you pass them by. You never know what they are going through and your smile may bring the joy they need." This is still a roller coaster of emotions I fight in my heart, but as an adult now, I practice his lessons daily. Every morning when I get to the school where I work, I make sure that I greet every person that passes by with a smile in loving memory of my father, Nicolas Serrato Naranjo, of Michoacan, Mexico.