My name is Toni Gonzales and I am a very proud third generation American woman of Mexican descent. My family’s history is full of strong women who struggled to survive through many uncertain and restless times in our history. When asked how I think our nation can overcome and restore our current unrest, I’d have to say we need to look back at our country’s history and how it was done in the past. My own family history has set an amazing example of compassion and empathy for me to follow and pay forward.
My grandparents and parents were all born in the greater Los Angeles area. My grandmother shared stories of growing up in the diverse area of Watts, California, during the Great Depression. She would always say, “Mija! I thank God I’m alive! There were days we had no food!” She told me how they could only buy food on certain days and only certain amounts. She shared how neighbors “looked out for each other” during these difficult times and how everyone shared what they could so nobody went hungry.
My mother has shared a story during WWII, while her father was fighting in Europe. She and my grandmother moved in with her maternal grandmother. One day, the War Department came to my great-grandmother’s home to deliver the dreaded telegram carrying the sad news that my mother’s uncle was killed in action. My mom remembers some dear neighbors, the Bakers, an African–American family, took her into their home and helped care for her while my great-grandmother coped with her loss, and my grandmother could help with funeral arrangements. Mom remembers, like the generation before hers, neighbors and friends “looked out” for each other.
My mom recalls working at a Thrifty Drug Store in, Compton, Ca., while pregnant with me, in August of 1965. The Watts riots had just begun and rioters were closing in on the neighboring businesses. Her manager, Mr. Upp, a white man, told her, “Let’s just close! Let’s lock up the store and go home! You are not walking home! I will give you a ride.” She remembers thanking God that night for having such a concerned and caring manager. This was another example of the community “looking out” for one another during a time of friction and division within society.
Eventually my young parents saved enough money to purchase a home and moved us to La Mirada. There they raised my brother, sister, and me with the same strong faith their parents and grandparents shared. Although money was tight for the young couple, my parents made sure we all attended parochial school to help reinforce the same Catholic Christian values they wanted to instill in us that had been instilled in them.
It was in our Catholic school that we learned first about The Golden Rule, love your neighbor as yourself, the greatest love is to lie down one’s life for another, and, we are here to SERVE one another. My parents and grandparents had already been living the examples of this methodology.
In 1972, my parents suffered the loss of their little girl, my older sister, who was 8 years old. It was yet another tragic and uncertain time for my family. The love expressed to my family during this time will live in my heart forever. Our loving neighbors and even strangers, brought meals, money, and support in any way they could. Our parish and school seemed to always be at our door with something for us.
When it came to finding my lifelong partner and husband, I knew I wanted to find a man who shared the exact same Core Values that I’d been taught and wanted to instill in my own children. I Thank God, I found this gentleman. My husband, like me, had come from the same humble beginnings. His background, like mine, was filled with struggle, yet strong faith, to see them through. He was also taught the best life is a life in service of others. It didn’t matter what color or creed your neighbors or friends were; as long as they shared a value system that helped move us forward in a positive direction, they deserved a chance. It was those character values that led my husband to want to be in law enforcement. He has devoted his life in law enforcement to try to share these ideals with those he found in the back seat of his patrol car. He has often tried to minister to them to get them back on track.
When we became parents we knew we wanted to instill all those same morals and values with our sons, Jarrett (26), John-Paul (14), and Gavin (8). Our eldest has and the two younger are still attending Catholic Parochial schools. I feel it is up to us parents first and the school second to help us enforce a moral compass for our sons and ALL children. I firmly believe that morals can be taught in public schools just as in any private or religious affiliated school.
In my opinion, if there is any chance of our country, The Greatest Country, to reform, it wouldn’t hurt for us to look back and learn from the Greatest Generation — the people, not the politicians, but the people. Our Founding Fathers set up our government For the PEOPLE and by the PEOPLE, not Big Government. It wasn’t established for the rich and powerful, nor, was it set up for parties to put their own interests ahead of the people who they serve.
A guiding Moral Compass must start at home with old fashioned Family Values: Empathy, Selflessness, Love and care for your neighbor, as yourself; Respect each others’ needs and opinions. Most importantly, we need to live and teach that Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you’d have done to you.” At the end of the day, all we want is success for our families – to be safe, secure, healthy, and able to thrive.