he core value that captures the person I am and that I am becoming would be faith. Since birth, I have grown up with Christian values. These values I have gained from my mom and grandmother. As a child, my grandma would take me to church with her. It was something I did not enjoy at all. I did not like it because she was forcing me. She would not only force me to go, but also to wear dresses, clothing that, as a child, I did not like. I felt so out of place and did not understand anything, even though I grew up knowing I was a “Christian.” I have always believed in God, but it was not until last year that I found an understanding to my faith. I grew up without my dad, and I sometimes felt that it was a punishment from God. However, with the values I had, I knew that it was not right to blame God. I just didn’t understand why I shouldn’t blame him. Last summer I went on a trip to Los Angeles with my high school. The only family that I have from my dad’s side that lives in the United States lives out there. I only knew one relative, my great aunt, Jesusita. I really wanted to see her because the last time I saw her I was five. I called her and she was very excited. We had to wait to find out if her daughter or son-in-law would be able to join and drive us around. A little after we hung up, I received a call from an 818 area code. I thought it was a toll-free call, so I ended it. A couple of seconds after that, the number called me again. I do not know why, but I had a feeling that it was my dad. My heart started racing deep and fast as the hooves of a racing horse. I felt as if my heart was going to pop out of my chest. When I answered I heard a man on the other end say, “Leslie? It’s Hector, your dad.” His words crawled under my skin. My heart dropped down to my feet, I felt lost, confused, and I wanted to burst into a million pieces. I could not hear anything he was saying. I could only question myself, “How did he get my number? How did he know I’m in Los Angeles? How?” He told me he wanted to see me. That was such a hurtful moment for me. I felt like shattered glass. He had never been in my life by choice, yet he had always had my grandma’s phone number and address, and all of a sudden, he showed up, so I decided I would have dinner with him and my other relatives. It was then that my faith started to kick in, because I forgave him. I felt the good will of God in me. I forgave him, not for being absent, but for trying to change. After that, we kept in contact for a couple of months, but once again he left me—as I waited, for a text, or a phone call. It hurt me deeply because I had forgiven him, and he had promised that never again would this happen. But it did. I was left hurt, angry, and disappointed. Still, I was happy I had gotten the chance to know a little bit of him.
I kept in contact with my aunt. She told me he should feel blessed to have a daughter who forgave him after everything, yet when she told him what she had told me, he yelled at her, told her that his life and his choices were none of her business. He went on to insult her. The alcohol made him speak abusive words. My aunt later told me that my father was a very violent person, especially when he drank alcohol. She was ashamed and embarrassed, yet even then, right there at that moment, my faith bloomed to its fullest. Listening to what my aunt told me, I realized that things do happen for a reason. God kept my mom and me away from him, and we were able to live a life without having to overcome pain and sadness. Having my dad walk out of my life for the last time hurt me deeply. He had filled me with hope that I was finally going to know what having a father was like. I thought he was finally a “man,” but I was very wrong. His actions were more immature than a 15-year-old boy. At least I do not have to wonder for my whole life what it would have been like to know him. There are many different traits between my mom and me, but after spending a couple of hours with my dad, and talking with him, I found out some of those were similarities I had in common with him. Those few days felt as if I were in a dream, too good to be true, but the sad part is, it was all too true. Since then my life is filled with faith because faith can move mountains. I believe God has a plan for each of us, but I do not believe in religion. I believe religion is just a way of life people are expected to follow. My favorite verse from the Bible is, “I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) That is my favorite quote because my faith in God is now very strong and keeps getting stronger. Whenever I hit a bump in the road, it is this verse that keeps me going. The verse helps me to keep pushing, and helps me accomplish more. At the beginning of this year I started attending church again. I now feel comfortable because I go by choice and I truly enjoy it. It gives me joy in my life. I now have knowledge tied to my beliefs, unlike before. I have always been a happy person, but this knowledge has filled an empty hole in my heart and I feel that I am now complete. My faith is my core which shapes me into who I am becoming as a strong, young woman.