It made me introspective.
Last month’s anniversary of the 19th Amendment declaring women’s right to vote helped me reappreciate how important women have been in my life. At the risk of omitting many important names, I am sharing the names of some of those women who have affected me and, even at my age, are helping shape me.
None of the women listed are related to me. Listing my wife, Mom or Grandmother was too obvious and easy. I know all the women listed through my regular contacts in our community. None of them knew they would be on my list.
I deliberately omitted their titles, affiliations or degrees. That had no relevance to my list. They are listed without priority. Each has had significant impact on who am, who I am trying to become and why I do what I do.
Here are only a few.
Naina Patel – She is a quiet force of incredible self-directed luminance and resources, who with laser efficiency, targets those in our community needing help. She is a walking testament to the saying, “Being humble means recognizing that we are not on earth to see how important we can become but to see how much we can make a difference in the lives of others.” Her not agreeing with my description will validate my description of her.
She avoids the limelight she creates but will never shy away from helping those in most need.
I pray for more “Nainas” in our communities.
Dolores Huerta – Each time I see her, her caring approach and kindness to my family draws me closer to her radiant and gentle persona.
My children are in awe when we do see Dolores. My family cannot believe such an important historical figure knows their Dad and who always remembers them. As controversial as she may be to some, my children understand, respect and appreciate Dolores’s place in history.
Many of us could learn from her amazing grace, spirit and constant quest for equality, social justice and peaceful activism.
Sonya Christian – “Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.” Whoever authored this quote must have done so after meeting Sonya. I have yet to see the weight of her daily responsibilities erode her contagious smile and genuine enthusiasm for who you are ... regardless of your title or stature.
I do not work with Sonya on a daily basis, but I wish I did. I want to be like her. I want to learn how she makes everyone feel special and important in that moment of meeting her. We have already felt the positive mojo of her non-stop commitment to making us all better through innovative education for our diverse community. There is much more to come from Sonya.
She must have thousands of them, but somehow, she always makes me feel like I am her one and only special friend. If you meet her, I guarantee, you will feel the same.
Magda Menendez – There is no questioning her voracity for helping those most in need. As long as I have known her, she holds no qualms when advocating for the less fortunate or those seeking a chance at what most have been given. Her personality and strength have made her a role model for many, including me and my family.
Because of her vocation, she is equally fluent in several languages including newly-paroled-felon dialect or legislator hyperbole. You will never be able to strip away Magda’s street swagger nor her ability to connect her own life experiences to those seeking her counsel.
There are some she may irritate because of her non-conformity to a regulated new way of helping those in need. But because of her dedication to helping rather than to a delivery system, there are thousands more who respect and are grateful to Magda.
Each of these women and many more I wish I had space to list have brought me pivotal moments of humility and self-enlightenment, not because of who they are but because of what they are: a constant source of inspiration and a reminder that no one should ever feel undervalued because of their gender or ethnicity.
I, like many others, are better because of them.