A Simple Heart

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

One thing I learned very early in my childhood while growing up in the 1950s in rural Texas was empathy – understanding, compassion, sympathy sensitivity. It came naturally just by seeing how my parents lived their lives. It was that special inborne ability to feel in oneself, the feelings of others.

A SIMPLE HEART

By Al Garcia

One thing I learned very early in my childhood while growing up in the 1950s in rural Texas was empathy – understanding, compassion, sympathy sensitivity.  It came naturally just by seeing how my parents lived their lives.  It was that special inborne ability to feel in oneself, the feelings of others.

Both my parents possessed a passion for their neighbors and fellow man, no matter who they were, what nationality, or what color.  They had a simple heart that even as a child, I could see, and I could feel. I t was a part of my heritage that they not only instilled in me, but nurtured and cultivated in me and all their children.  It was the Mexican-American way of living in a society that had not yet accepted the “rainbow coalition” living in their midst.

In the early 1950 my parents lived on a farm in what was then called Rio Farms in a small rural community near Hargil, Texas, located approximately 24 miles northeast of McAllen.  My dad was a tenant farmer and my mom a farmer’s wife and mother.  Hargil was about 88% Hispanic and 11% white.  It was a small isolated community within the Valley, but one filled with friendships, families and bonds that would last a lifetime.

Rio Farms was a “charitable, benevolent institution” set up by the federal government in the 1940s to help tenant farmers get their start in agriculture.  In fact, some of the Rio Grande Valley’s most productive farmers of the early 1940s, 1950s helped put the Valley on the agricultural map of the world.  We were part of that governmental experiment.  

I remember as a child playing on the dirt and sand roads in front of the house, and in the fields that adjoined our house.  I had a rope swing on a big tree that grew behind the house, that overlooked a fenced field where cows and horses grazed, and a big old barn filled with hay, a tractor, and magic hiding places for a kid my age.  For a kid, it was heaven on earth.  For my mom and dad, it was a grueling and sometimes exhausting life.  But their heart and soul was fully vested in farming and caring for the land and for their family.

It was during this early part of my life on the farm that I began to understand the meaning of life, as taught to me by my parents.  Life was simple – you lived, you shared, you laughed, and you loved each other, but most of all, you worked hard each day.  And they also taught me that to sustain life, I needed faith.

It was during this period of my life that I saw and began to appreciate the character, integrity and strength my parents had.  They shared what little they had and what they grew and cultivated with their neighbors, and even with strangers who would often come by looking for work, because they were homeless and hungry.  I remember one moment in particular.  A black family drove up to the back of the house one early evening in an old dilapidated truck.  They were looking for work, and looked tired and dejected.

This one event has remained in my mind to this day.  My dad had no work to offer them.  But he and my mom brought out some cold water and coffee and had them sit beneath my tree by my swing.  They talked for a while, and I started to play with one of the kids who must have been about my age.  And without hesitation or consideration, my dad asked them if they were hungry.  They were.  My mom puts her arm around the older woman and walks her inside to the kitchen.  My dad and I stay outside talking to the men and enjoying the early evening breeze.

Soon, out comes mom and the older woman.  They had cooked potatoes, eggs, and mom had made flour tortillas.  It was amazing as the visitors devoured the food as if it was steak and all the trimmings.  They evidently had not had a meal in some time we later learned.  My parents didn’t have much to share, but it was in their nature to help, to share, and to just be themselves.  That was who my parents were.  And they remained that way until the end – loving and giving.

And I remember all this, and I feel a pang in my heart, but I also cannot help but smile inside.  This was nothing out of the ordinary when I was growing up.  This was their way of life.  They knew no other way to be.  It was part of who they were and how they had been brought up, and now they were passing that empathy and character on to me in all they did.  That was the benefit of being from two such different worlds.  And I was being given the best of both.

My parents had a simple heart.  And because of them my life has meaning, purpose and worth.  They taught me by living their lives as my example.  They taught me that life is not just about accumulating worldly goods, but about sharing your heart and soul with those around you, and those less fortunate than you.  To do that, we have to understand, appreciate and cherish who we are and why, but most of all, where we came from and where we want to go.

They had a simple heart.  And their radiance still glows in me today. 


Submitted: June 11, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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