I grew up in Michigan. I went to college in Michigan. During the summer after my freshman year of college, I lived in Santa Barbara, California.
The reason for my relocation?
I was recruited to sell books by a Nashville-based publishing company. I ran my own business cold-calling clients by selling books door-to-door.
They weren’t encyclopedias; they were study guides that were essentially like having a teacher’s guide for subjects ranging from English to algebra, and the books spanned kindergarten through high school advanced placement levels.
I carried a 25-pound case on my back and biked through the city of Santa Barbara six days a week, working 80-85 hours per week. To this day, it remains one of the most challenging AND rewarding experiences of my entire life.
(I’ll tell the story of my visit to the ER another time.)
While, I was handsomely compensated financially for my efforts, the lasting reward of that job was the human aspect: the people whose lives I touched, the people who also touched mine.
After selling the books, I personally delivered them to each family at the end of the summer, and showed each individual how they could access the information inside.
I lived in a primarily white and privileged neighborhood in the San Roque district of Santa Barbara that summer, but I canvassed every neighborhood in the city, regardless of its socioeconomic status. I spent weeks in a Hispanic neighborhood in the city. I remember “white” people warning me not to venture into the Hispanic neighborhoods — especially since I was carrying cash.
I didn’t listen.
I’m incredibly glad I didn’t.
Those “dangerous” Hispanic neighborhoods brought me the most joy that summer. I was welcomed into so many homes, and my hosts fed me lavishly. I met warm, honest people with an incredible work ethic and a strong sense of family — the kind of generous, caring people who made me feel at home even 3,000 miles away from my own.
These were people working two and three jobs to support their children.
I will never forget a white man telling me later that summer the “lazy Mexicans were ruining everything.” I was livid. I wanted to shout at him and storm out the door.
I wish I had.
I regretted not doing so that night when I went to bed, and I still regret it to this day. I’d like to think I would do that now.
One of my clients was a gardener in the neighborhood where I lived. We would wave at each other every day as I rode off for work, and I will never forget the day I sat down with his sons to show him how to find their algebra answers.
Sure, it was a business, but for me it was a service.
My dad flew out from Michigan, rented a car, and helped me deliver the books. He was by my side as I delivered the books to the families and showed them how to use them.
That summer is one I will never forget, and neither will my dad.
20 years later, I find myself managing a sports bar.
Most of our cooks are from the state of Oaxaca in Mexico and so are our busboys. I can honestly say the same warmth and generosity of spirit exists with our staff that existed in the families I met in Santa Barbara half a lifetime ago. We have staff who have been loyally serving for more than 25 years.
Luis is one of those men.
Here were are mugging for the camera.
Luis has hand washed dishes, stocked produce, and bussed tables faithfully for the San Francisco Saloon for more than 30 years. He rides the bus to work each day.
Now he is experiencing a life-threatening health issue.
In his absence, a few of us have stepped up to do his job ourselves, and I know I speak for all of us when I say it is incredibly hard work. It is the hard, thankless work that often goes unnoticed and unappreciated.
Initially when Lou’s daughter told us he needed a few weeks off, I set out to make him a fruit basket because his diet has been restricted of late.
My coworkers stepped up to contribute, and I assembled a nice basket.
Fruit with a card.
Per usual, my helper didn’t exactly help.
He was too busy throwing shade.
He isn’t into anything that doesn’t involve meat — or scratches on his big, boxy Boxer head. (I love him anyway.)
Nevertheless, I persisted.
I finished the basket off with a bow.
I brought it to Luis yesterday, and I met his wife for the first time. Though she doesn’t speak a word of English, and my Spanish is lame at best, I was blessed to spend time with them. She made me feel welcome, and she even gave me gifts.
The basket was made in Oaxaca, and the bag is meant for grocery shopping.
I left their home wanting to do more.
Luis was admitted to the hospital hours after I left his home.
The state of California limits us as his employer to only 40 hours of sick pay, despite his 30+ years of loyal service.
That is why I created a GoFundMe for his family. I want to do more for my hard-working friend than a basket full of bananas. While I’m grateful to my coworkers for chipping in for fruit, I want to up the ante.
In less than 24 hours, I am proud to say we are already at 40% of the goal. I would love to demolish that goal.
I know there are many worthy causes, so no pressure… I will obviously still love you even if you don’t contribute, but here’s the link just in case: HELP THE RAMOS FAMILY.
OK, that’s all.