I would like to start and end by thanking my parents. I was born and bred between Brazil, Japan & the United States. Through migrations and conversations, my parents exposed me to the realities of injustice, hardship and poverty. Through their actions, they underscored the transformative power of seizing opportunities and living a life of service to the community. They also like to have a good laugh along the way, which often doesn’t hurt.
I grew up reliving my father’s memory of rural poverty: he started selling avocados and bananas at the age of five. He was full-time employed by 15; He snagged a janitorial day-shift at the bank he would retire from decades later. He continued attending school in the evenings. All opportunities were framed as the metaphorical orange: we had to squeeze it until the last drop in order to nourish ourselves and expand our potential. A few months into the gig he was offered a type-writing apprenticeship on top of his cleaning shifts. Decades later he was overseeing operations in Asia, while continuing to pick up any trash left behind.
Though my father climbed out of poverty, my mother often reminded us that most hadn’t been so fortunate. I was about five when she took us along to deliver a donation to a family that had just experienced a tragedy. Their twelve year old (who was the eldest and thus caretaker while the mother was at work) was frying eggs for her hungry siblings; the kitchen was full of energy and youthful oblivion. A moment later the pan of frying oil flipped over the head of the three year old who was wobbling around, exploring. I was shocked, amazed and dejected all at once as I stood before her. Later my mind would involuntarily revisit that young-and-scarred pink baby face. I dreaded those flashbacks for years. But the point was to remember. My mother showed me how to recognize hardship. She instilled in me the responsibility to take action and improve my surroundings: from picking up my dirty socks to helping those who hadn’t many oranges in their arsenal. She also ensured I could remember the smiles, the gratitude and laughter that comes from lifting each other up.
My life is a response to the many opportunities, conversations and collaborations with which I have been gifted. I’m glad I got the chance to underscore some that were provided by my loving parents. To an opportunity, I will answer with gratitude and endless curiosity for all which it beholds. A gifted orange is potential energy: it can bear many more fruits. I seek to be an opportunity multiplier. I’m also keenly aware that excessive consumption of Vitamin C can’t be absorbed by the body and just gets discarded. As I understand it today, this is my life’s work: to disseminate opportunity to those who have the least. Obrigada, meus queridos!