Have you ever noticed how naturally many women lead and teach? Linda Kalaf is a great example of a woman who not only teaches, but also advocates for others, and has done so all her life. Linda, a Human Resources professional, created three mentoring programs and has led many groups. As she worked her way through my book, Character Safari: Remember and Write the Stories of Your Life, she embraced her own journey, became passionate about her mission and created a course for women entitled You Can Do It.
The following is one of Linda’s delightful stories. This one reminds us that seeds of advocacy are nurtured early in life. Imagine Linda as a young girl with dark hair and a musical voice filled with enthusiasm and hope:
“My story begins…
“I was blessed to have a strong family upbringing, with two dominant figures and role models, Mom and Dad. As young children, my siblings and I were taught the importance of family—La Familia, and culture—La Cultura. Growing up in Lincoln Park, Michigan, there weren’t too many Latinos in the area, but my Dad was a visionary and pioneer in the Mexican food industry. His dream was to build a tortilla factory, and that was in 1959 before Mexican food was popular or well known.
“I grew up in a large family consisting of my parents, three sisters and one brother. When I was four years old, my parents opened up La Azteca Food Products and started manufacturing corn tortillas. Being a strong family unit, we all counted, packaged, sealed, boxed and even helped deliver tortillas to local businesses in the Detroit area.
“Growing up in the family business provided many opportunities to witness, first-hand, the entrepreneurial spirit of my dad and his determination to succeed; along with Mom’s independence, strength and courage. With Mom by his side, and the family working hard, praying and playing together, this was indeed a formula for success!
“Fortunate to be bicultural in a diverse community without many Latinos, it was my job to educate my neighborhood about Mexican food. So in elementary school during show and tell, I’d talk about how to make a tortilla. Then immediately after school, the children in my class all came over and lined up at the side door of my home. I warmed up corn tortillas, spread butter in the middle, rolled them up and my sister would help pass them out to everyone in line. In Spanish class, I’d explain how to make a taco and took fresh home-made tacos to class.
“Along this journey, the values I learned included: community, courage, dedication, determination, education, enthusiasm, faith in God, hard work, independence, passion, tenacity, La Familia and La Cultura. What made me realize the importance of values was understanding how much I truly loved and missed Dad once he passed; our patriarch and head of La Familia was gone. It was important for me to memorialize La Familia Garza’s story.
“Mom and Dad taught us their philosophies of life, including:
- If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.
- Number one takes care of number one, and by the way, YOU are number one!
- Cada cabeza es un mundo. Each head is a different world.
- Life is a gift.
“Life is a gift all right, how are you living yours?”
Can you imagine a world without your favorite Mexican food? (How the world has changed). I love this story because her words show us that Linda served as an ambassador of good will in her own corner of the world by sharing her culture. By example, the Garza family modeled strong family values, values we can emulate. Today, Linda’s programs stress knowing your values, setting your goals, and affirming, “Yes, you can!”
What are some of the wise sayings shared in your childhood? As a part of writing the story of your life, tell the story (or stories) that come to mind. And, as always, I’d love to hear your story.
May self-trust build your confidence,