God sure has a funny way of teaching life lessons. For me, faith was a merely a concept until I had a major health crisis. Spending an entire summer in the hospital changed everything.
Summer in the Waiting Room: How Faith, Family, and Friends Saved My Life is my story. It’s the tale of a boy who grew up in a working-class neighborhood, failed miserably at college and fell into despair and hopelessness, met the love of his life, married, finished college, raised a family, and found success in business and public office.
It’s also the story of a man who vowed never to fail again and worked tirelessly to redeem himself, only to find true redemption, while in a state of complete helplessness in the ICU, through faith in God, and the love and support of family, and friends.
Since January, East Side Eddie Report.com has posted 26 excerpts of the story. After a one-month hiatus, Summer in the Waiting Room will return next Wednesday!
If you need to catch up before next week, click on the “Summer in the Waiting Room” tag to the right of this page. Here’s a summary of the first 26 excerpts:
Prologue The Prologue uses the Giant Dipper, a 1920s era roller coaster at the Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, California, as a metaphor for the first 46 years of my life.
Part One The Giant Dipper: November 6, 1963 – June 17, 2010
Chapter 1: 48 Viewmont Avenue Chapter 1 chronicles my life growing up in a working-class east San Jose neighborhood at 48 Viewmont Avenue. This chapter sets the foundation for the values I learned from my parents and follows my idyllic childhood through my failure at college, and subsequent period of drinking and dead end jobs.
Chapter 2: Sandra Peralta Chapter 2 introduces my future wife Sandra and her family, a loyal and tightly-knit unit. This chapter describes our long courtship, marriage, and starting a family. It also recounts my efforts to return to college, graduate, and start my journey toward redemption of my college failure.
Chapter 3: Redemption Chapter 3 follows my obsessive quest for self-redemption following college graduation. For 16 years, I worked around the clock seeking success and recognition as an entry-level political aide, corporate manager, director, and vice president, political chief-of-staff, and high school trustee.
Chapter 4: 360 days Chapter 4 opens on June 10, 2009, with me presiding over my high school alma mater graduation ceremony as a member of the Board of Education. With each professional accomplishment, my desire to succeed intensifies until stress and a frenetic work schedule bring it all down 360 days later on June 7, 2010.
In 2008, President George W. Bush signed a law requiring that unaccompanied immigrant children from Mexico and Canada be screened within 48 hours and sent back home. The law goes on to state that children from countries that don’t border the U.S. must be turned over to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and go through a time-consuming immigration hearing process.
Over 50,000 children from Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Honduras have crossed several international borders to arrive in the U.S. without their parents. According to the law, U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) officials have handed the kids off to the HHS. The sheer number of children has overwhelmed HHS and immigration hearing officers. In the meantime, the kids are here.
Some people want to kick them out of the country immediately. Others want our government to welcome them with open arms. Congress wants to change the law to require these kids to be treated like Mexicans, a 48-hour screening and back to where they came from. President Obama wants more money to secure the borders and care for the children while the HHS processes them.
What a mess!
However this thing turns out, as a nation that wants to continue making progress on our journey to true democracy and freedom, we need to look at the impact of this border crisis from three perspectives: (1) The Humanitarian Crisis, (2) The Public Policy Crisis, and (3) The “Here We Go Again” Crisis.
The Humanitarian Crisis
It’s been all over the news. Children stuck at the border are sleeping in warehouses and prison-like military facilities, and eating less than nutritious meals. The HHS has attempted to provide more humane accommodations and healthier food. This has proven to be challenging as some local communities have expressed their disgusting desire to not welcome the youngsters.
In Murrieta, California, protesters turned them back by blocking federal buses, spitting at them, and spewing racist diatribes. We have to stop paying attention to these heartless people and take care of the children while the mucky-mucks in Washington try to figure it all out. That sounds humane to me.
The Public Policy Crisis
This is a tough one. Take away the political fringes of militarizing the border or opening it up to all comers, and the public policy answer is somewhere in the middle. Comprehensive Immigration Reform is the only way to get that done. If it’s up to our Tea Party conservative friends in Congress, that’s not going to happen in our lifetime.
Resolving the immediate issue is a challenge too. The President and cooler heads in The Capitol want to address the humanitarian issue before doing anything else. Others, including Latino Democrat Congressman Henry Cuellar from Texas, say that we need to change the law to stem the tide from Central America first.
I don’t know the correct answers to these questions. For the sake of those scared and lonely children, I can only pray and hope that our leaders do something soon.
As images of kids gathering at the border fill the 24-hour news cycles, the anti-Latino crowd starts singing the same old song about drug smugglers, gangsters, and disease-carrying vermin that come along for the ride.
I saw Congresswoman Michelle Bachman and Congressman Rich Nugent on CNN express their “fear that gang members are invading our country” when discussing the current crisis. Here we go again! What a shame.
From Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro to a kid sleeping on a cot in some warehouse tonight, Latinos exemplify what it means to be American.
Can the fear mongers just cut it out already? Negative stereotyping doesn’t do anything to help the kids at the border, nor does it do anything to help America. As my dad used to say, “first things first.” Let’s take care of the children.
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
The great English playwright wrote this sentence in a long letter to a friend about the allure of money and power versus the meaning of purposeful life work. You would think he was commenting about today’s media fascination with the rich and famous. But he wasn’t. He wrote it in 1905.
When I was a kid listening to the grown-ups talk about work, the word purpose was never part of the discussion. Work was a means to put food on the table and pay the mortgage or rent. Any extra money went towards an occasional backyard barbecue and a few beers on the weekend before going back to the grind of the work week.
My parents wanted me and my five siblings to get a college degree so that we could have an important career and earn enough money to live comfortably. When I finally graduated from college, I set out to do just that. I soon became a run-of-the-mill workaholic trying to bring home a good paycheck and make my family and friends proud.
I had never heard about the concept of working with a purpose until I participated in a year-long Fellows Program called the American Leadership Forum. The concept is simple: figure out what gets you up in the morning, find a way to make a living doing it, and give it all you’ve got. I gave these ideas some thought, but the reality of financial commitments and my thirst for success didn’t allow me to do much more than that.
The high-pressure career, and the prestige and perks that came with it drove me to work hard every day. Striving for personal success kept me busy until I had a health crisis that changed my life. Then, in an instant, it all came to a screeching halt. God sent a clear message. An all-consuming quest for personal achievement isn’t in His plan for me.
On a daily basis, I struggle to reconcile what I thought was the definition of success with what I’m destined to do. I still miss the hustle and bustle of working in executive management, not to mention the financial security. But my journey has led me to a deep understanding of passion and purpose.
I’ve come to realize that helping others along their journey and being with people I care about are my passions. I now work with purpose through sharing stories on East Side Eddie Report.com and mentoring others, and I live with purpose when I’m around those I love.
You can find joy in your life. Discover your passion. Work and live with purpose. You’ll be glad you did it.
I was 29 years old when I attended my first fundraising event. The guest of honor was a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles. I volunteered to help at the event that was held at an upscale art gallery in downtown San Jose. All I had to do was sign in attendees and collect donations, nevertheless I was anxious and a little intimidated. I had never been to a fundraiser or an art gallery.
As a kid, I remember that my dad used to say that every man should own at least one suit and a sports coat with a pair of slacks, so I had something handy to wear. I wore a gray two-button business suit, light blue dress shirt with dark blue tie, and cordovan penny loafers. The reason I remember what I was wearing so clearly is because it was the only dress clothes I had other than a tweed sports coat and navy wool dress pants.
The gallery was long and narrow. Modern art paintings hung on the walls and interesting sculptures sat on pedestals. White linen tablecloths topped tall cocktail tables and a small bar was staffed by a man dressed in a tuxedo.
A jazz trio softly played soothing tunes as men in business suits and professionally dressed women deposited checks into pre-printed envelopes, ate from small china plates, and chatted with other guests. It was like watching a well-choreographed dance.
After about an hour, the trio stopped playing and the event’s host introduced politicians and other VIPS to polite applause from the 40 or so guests. A few speakers enthusiastically praised the candidate, the candidate made brief comments, and the whole affair was done. Less than 15 minutes later, the gallery was empty.
Coming from a working-class Mexican American family, the only receptions that I knew about before that evening were related to weddings. The evening starts with mariachis entertaining guests, then dinner is served followed with a night of dancing. After the dance, family and close friends go to the home of the bride’s and groom’s parents for a nightcap. They all return for menudo the next morning. Total time: about 24 hours.
So here I was at the art gallery, 29 years old with a college degree, and I had just witnessed something that was completely out of this world for me. I was intrigued with the rhythmic nature of the event and fascinated that everyone knew how it worked. Since then, I’ve attended hundreds of receptions, breakfast events, luncheons, dinners, and cocktail parties. It was on-the-job training on how to conduct myself on a professional stage.
I’ve learned that choice of attire, how you stand, sit, move about the room, and shake hands all send messages on your credibility as a professional. Nobody is watching, yet everybody is watching. The impression you make on others could be the difference in getting the dream job, earning a promotion, or landing that lucrative contract.
More Latinos than ever are graduating with college degrees. That’s a good thing. Armed with an education and a valuable piece of paper, we’re making inroads into the offices of corporate America, government, and education. Taking the next step into management is another proposition. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, just 8.5% of Latinos who work are in “management occupations.”
Most of those management positions are in the service industry. The percentage of government and education administrators is less than 7% and Google recently disclosed that only 3% of its workforce is Latino. I can’t imagine Google, or any other Silicon Valley tech firm, employing more than a handful of Latino managers.
So what does this mean?
Racial stereotypes play a major role in how managers look at their Latino employees. They expect us to be service employees, blue-collar workers, domestic help, landscapers, construction workers, and so on. Latinos may not even register with executives when developing a management team. But we can’t let these facts keep us out of the executive suite.
Unfortunately, many of us lack the confidence it takes to be considered for advancement. School systems don’t teach critically important skills like confidence, poise, and how to conduct oneself in a professional setting. For many working-class Latinos, our first job out of college is our initial exposure to the white-collar world. While we’re educationally prepared for the work, we don’t understand the subtle protocols of advancing through large professional organizations.
So what do we do about this?
As a corporate executive, I’ve learned that those of us who have attained management positions need to actively seek out talented Latinos and mentor them on the nuances of “climbing the corporate ladder.” Leadership programs focused on Latinos in business and education are popping up across the country. As a professional community we need to support these efforts.
Professional Latinos also need to share their time and wisdom at school career days. Our kids shouldn’t have to wait for a college degree and a job before they learn how to dress, stand, sit, shake hands, and speak as a professional.
Latinos are smart, talented, and ambitious. More times than not, ugly racial stereotypes get in the way of advancement. That is what it is. We need to overcome those obstacles. Those of us who have been blessed to have experienced professional success are obligated to make sure that the next generation walks into that first art gallery reception with poise and confidence.