Never forget your beginner’s spirit.

It was both awkward and accurate to say that we didn’t have very much money when my family came to America. My father spent most of it buying a very used Oldsmobile and he worked double shifts until he made enough to send for my mother and I.

We ate a lot of rice porridge and vienna sausages. Sunday was the only day we ate meat unless it was payday.

If you were to look up my hometown, you’d realize that the median income for a household in the city was $26,704 (versus $48,259 for the rest of Texas), and the median income for a family was $34,543. The per capita income for the city was $13,993. About 17.3% of families and 22.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.3% of those under age 18 and 21.7% of those age 65 or over. A quarter of the city was living UNDER the poverty line! The funny thing is, we didn’t know we were poor. At least I didn’t.

Around the time we arrived in Texas, a group of retired teachers volunteered and were assigned immigrant families like ours to teach the basics of the English language. I remember when my father left to work in Taiwan for a few years, I had to sign the checks for the utility bills because my mother could not.

Eventually I’d go to college. When I graduated, I left Texas and moved out west with little money and almost no possessions. I smile when I think about how similar my beginnings were to my father’s. One of the few possessions I owned was a very small square photograph of my grandfather as a boy with his family that I kept pinned on a bare wall. It’s unclear how they afforded it, but I keep it to remind me where I came from.

Never forget your beginner’s spirit.

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