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I didn't respect my dad's job as a janitor. This is what I would tell him now.

Today she's proud to be a janitor's daughter, but she didn't always feel that way.

I didn't respect my dad's job as a janitor. This is what I would tell him now.
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Fathers Everywhere

Argelia is a 39-year-old Mexican-American mom of two. She works as a training coordinator in Los Angeles, has a great family, and is known to wake up with a smile every day.

She gives a lot of credit to her late dad, Angel, though, who taught her the value of hard work and sacrifice. Her only regret is it took her a while to realize what he provided for his family. This is her story as told to Welcometoterranova.


All photos provided by Argelia, used with permission.


Dear Dad,

Parents often say to their children, "You'll understand when you have kids." I never got that before, but now, in my case, I feel like that's very true.

Only a parent can understand the sacrifice you made to leave my mom, me sister, and me in Mexico to come work in the United States. As a 2-year-old, I didn't understand why you weren't with us. You were that faraway mystery — "my dad" — the wonderfully sweet man who would call me before bedtime to say, "good night."

I remember standing in my mom's room around all of your clothes asking: "Do you think he misses me? Do you think he likes me?" I thought about you all the time. You were a larger-than-life hero in my mind.

Two years later, when we finally moved to the United States to be with you, I found out that you were everything I had imagined, and many things I had not.

A young Argelia spending some quality time with her dad.

I didn't understand why you were always working. You left for work every day as soon as I got home from school and returned after I was already asleep. You even worked on weekends. To me, you were still the mystery that I thought about so often while in Mexico.

But instead of trying to figure you out, I just went with the flow. Being from another country, I focused on fitting in with everyone else instead, and that went on for a few years. But things got real once my classmates started sharing what their parents did for a living.

"My dad is a doctor," one said.

"My parents own a business," another said.

That's when I went home and asked you what you did for a living, and you told me that you were a janitor at a hospital. I was devastated.

Angel enjoying some rare downtime at work.

I heard how the kids joked with each other at my school by saying, "You're going to grow up and be a janitor."

As if that was the worst thing a person could become.

At that point, I realized there was absolutely no way I was going to tell my friends that my dad was a janitor. I avoided the subject for as long as I could before I finally created the lie that you were a scientist. My friends were impressed, but they had no idea how empty I felt inside.

It wasn't until high school that I started caring less about the opinions of others and more about the great man you were.

Finally Argelia learned to understand her dad.

I learned that many of the same classmates, with dads who were doctors and lawyers, told stories of how these men verbally and physically abused them, abandoned them, and ignored them.

What is a parent's love, anyway? In my heart, I learned that it meant sacrifice, hard work, patience, and knowing that you would do anything for our family.

For so long, I didn't give you credit for being the man you were and for all of the things you did for us — without fanfare, without complaint, and without rest. You did these things to establish yourself in this country, to find a home in a nice neighborhood so that my sister and I could have a good education and pursue our own dreams.

But by the time I realized all of this, you were gone.

Three months before I turned 18 and one year before I became an American citizen, you died after a tragic accident. You weren't there to witness everything you had hoped for me coming to fruition.

Now, I work in the same hospital that you worked in so tirelessly for all those years.

I walk the halls and wonder if some of the faces I see were faces you saw. Because of that, I always make sure to smile and say hello to everyone — from the friendly people to the ones who just walk by without giving me a second glance. I do it because I know that's what you would've wanted.

I've never forgotten the lessons you taught me — lessons you probably had no idea you were teaching me.

Those lessons changed my life.

Argelia with her two kids, Natalia and Sebastian.

When I became a mom, I promised myself that I would pass on those lessons to my kids.

Hard work, humility, and most importantly, to place more value on a person's heart instead of their clothes, their houses, their cars, or their job titles.

Speaking of job titles, today I am proud to say that I'm the daughter of a janitor because you embodied everything that I know to be good in this world.

When my daughter graduates from high school this June, Dad, you will be in my heart, and I will take immense pride in knowing that the lessons you taught me are alive in a new generation.

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Welcometoterranova and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Welcometoterranova-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.