Every Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember, I have spent my mornings down on skid row. I am always astonished at the deplorable state of Skid Row in Los Angeles; each year, it seems like the population down there grows. What is most heartbreaking is seeing entire families there. One year, I ran into a family with a newborn sleeping on the street in a tent. Experiences like that always remind me of how blessed I am but also serve as a clear call to continue the work to make an impact on the lives I come in contact with.
When I was in the 3rd grade, I recall a man in a suit coming to deliver a letter one day. He sat and talked with my mom, and as they spoke, I saw her body language change, as she slumped in her chair so I knew the news she had gotten was not good. She shared with my sisters and me that the house we were living in was foreclosed on and we had 30 days to move out.
This was devastating because we had lived in this house our entire lives so far and had only 30 days to find somewhere to live only added to the stress. I remember tagging along with my mom as we went apartment hunting day in and day out. Nothing fit what we needed, and we were forced to move out of our home and had no place to go.
My family and I were homeless for about three months. I remember how we lived out of our storage unit and we would go from place to place during the day, looking for somewhere to live and trying to find someplace to be. We would stay with family members and friends, spend days out at parks or the malls. We'd stop by friends houses to shower or rest and then it was back to looking for a home or apartment to rent.
When we got the news that we had a place to stay in was after months of living in limbo. It was also the day before school started. So we were in a rush to move in, and we got in the house just in time to rummage through boxes to find our belongings for school the next day.
The next few years were far from easy. There were many days where our refrigerator and pantry was empty. But somehow, we'd get home to a box of food on the porch. This experience is what drives me to give back every year and as often as I can. My compassion for homeless individuals and families stems from my own experience being homeless and the gratefulness I have for those who stepped in to help when my family needed it. So this year I will exude gratefulness in two ways.
I will be joining 200 Firebaugh and Lynwood High School students as we head down to Skid Row to deliver blankets and hygiene care packages and food on Thanksgiving morning. I will also be joining leaders all across Los Angeles in taking part in a potluck and panel discussion around benefiting young boys and men of color in Los Angeles.
In my opinion, thankfulness is best expressed through acts of kindness that allow others to do the same. It is transferred through compassion and love. Because someone supported my family and me, the least I can do is return the favor by doing the same for others.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the opportunity to live out dreams and have the opportunity to serve as means of giving back. 2017 has been a year with many highs and lows as well. But overall, I am grateful for life, health and strength as I do my best to give back what was given to me. Too often, we focus on things we do not like or what we wish to change, and we do not stop long enough to enjoy the view and be thankful for all that is going well. I encourage all of you to take time and reflect on all of the good that has come your way and find ways to spread good to others.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families; may this time be filled with love, joy, and prosperity.