HOPE, THY NAME IS LINA

HOPE, THY NAME IS LINA

From Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul

Hope, Thy Name Is Lina

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.

Anonymous

Two days before the now infamous events of September 11, 2001, our family gathered in our apartment in Manhattan to celebrate my daughter’s first birthday. I was filled with all sorts of emotions as I remembered the past year and how quickly it had passed. From her early birth to the first time she laughed out loud, to her determined attempts at crawling and her loud musical renditions of Maaamaaa—the images sped by in my mind, and tears welled up in my eyes.

True to my neurotic form, I couldn’t help but worry about the challenges still to come as she grew up a Latina girl in the United States. How could I protect her from the stares she already received as a newborn in upstate New York because of her dark hair and brown skin that refused to blend in with the white blanket of snow covering the valley? I stressed about how much English I was speaking around her and whether she would ever learn enough Spanish to communicate with her family members in Puerto Rico. How would I teach her to proclaim proudly “I am an American,” when there will still be people who look at her and see a “foreigner”?

I put my worries aside, stopped myself from thinking about the ton of work that would be waiting for me on Monday morning and celebrated giving birth to the most beautiful little girl I had ever seen.

Two days later, on September 11, I found myself feeling a fear I had never known before and, for the first time, regretting my daughter’s existence. How could I have so naively and selfishly brought a child into this world so full of hatred and violence? How would I explain to her the world my generation and those before us had created, a troubled world that she would inherit? I lost my sense of life’s purpose: my own and my child’s. I felt useless and helpless. How was I to teach my child about love when hatred seemed to be the order of the day? The hope for a better future that comes with the birth of a child was suddenly lost to me. Although I didn’t personally lose a loved one on that fateful day, I grieved for all those who had, and I suffered moments of utter despair. I no longer believed innocence could exist in the world.

One day, as I walked home from work pretending that things had returned to normalcy, I passed by a local playground. Airplanes flew by, and I looked at them intently, thinking, Is that airplane supposed to be flying that low? But the children kept playing soccer, oblivious to the potential weapon of mass destruction flying overhead. They ran and giggled with each other, just as children have done for thousands of years. Overcome and overwhelmed by such a simple display of childhood innocence and joy, I breathed in deeply. How could I have not seen it before?

I ran home, picked up my little girl, looked into those gorgeous, big, dark eyes, and there it was: the gift she’d been patiently storing for me. A vision of endless possibilities wrapped up in the wonder and wisdom of a one-year-old. And as she looked back at me, bewildered by my tears, I realized that hope was never lost. I know that all my daughter asks of me is that I have a little bit of faith, that I not let a troubled world rob me of the gift she gives me.

Hope, thy name is Lina.

Elizabeth García

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