Why I Listen

Diego Mendoza , Staff Writer, Journalism

In IB English class students read “Why I Write,” an essay by George Orwell.  Their teacher then gave the assignment to write a one-page reflection piece using Orwell’s title as a model:  Why I __?__.  Senior Diego Mendoza, everyone’s Renaissance Man at NDA, wrote the following piece entitled “Why I Listen.”

I unfortunately do not acknowledge it all the time, but I am privileged. I live in a beautiful home in a safe neighborhood, I attend an incredible school, and I have two hard-working parents that provide me with unconditional love. Yet as I reflect upon all that I have, I remember how easily this all could have ended for me.

It was in December of 2000 when my mom and I were almost kidnapped in Mexico. As my mom finished her Christmas shopping and was taking me home from daycare, a group of armed men on the street made eye contact with her and quickly loaded into a pick-up truck. As my mom navigated the busy streets of Mexico City, the truck managed to stay within inches of our taillights. Even as my mom sped down the main freeway of the city, the men made sure to never lose their eye on us. Unfortunately, in a country where the corrupt government does nothing to help the poor, crime becomes the easiest way to provide for families. Miraculously, my mom and I managed to escape the kidnappers that day, but I have forever been plagued by the thought that my survival triggered the capture of another innocent soul–someone who could have had the incredible life I am blessed with today.

Then last year, a certain politician made the comment that Mexico only sends drugs, criminals, and rapists to the United States. As a victim of Mexican gang violence, a part of me agreed with this man. I recognized his distrust in a corrupt country with an unavoidable problem of truly violent gangs. Yet as an immigrant with many other immigrant friends, I suddenly realized that I had little idea as to why many of them had moved to the United States in the first place. I have known many of these people since I was a toddler; surely, they were not these awful criminals.

It was then I decided to sit down and listen to these immigrants’ stories. I learned how many walked miles everyday just to obtain drinkable water for their family. I learned how they would sleep on dirt floors with five other people in a single-room house. I learned how their classmates were tortured and raped by gang members. I learned how the police were bribed to execute those who dared speak up against the narcos.

I realized that by listening to the lives of my immigrant friends, I gained a better knowledge of the world I live in. The people this politician was talking about were actually the ones escaping the problems; they were not the ones causing it. By sitting down and listening to the lives of human beings, I became more intimate with the reality of mankind.

When I get home nowadays, my favorite activity is to find speeches of people who have struggled through the unthinkable. By simply taking a moment to listen to the words of people who have faced what I managed to escape so many years ago, I am reminded of all that I have and I am inspired to give back. Hearing real-life experiences of challenges I have never faced helps me build a better plan to tackle the issues that face our world today.