The Best Gift

We’re in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Everywhere you look you see ads for the latest and greatest toy, gaming system or gadget. At times, parents don’t even need to research the ideal gift, your kids have probably written out for you on list. Frankly, as a parent, it can be so overwhelming. Is it a worthwhile investment to pay for an expensive toy that might be soon forgotten when the next hip thing hits the shelf? Is it really the lesson that I want to teach my kids? I wonder. This holiday season, I have been thinking about how my parents answered to this stress and the lifelong lessons that they taught me.

I am the daughter of farmworker parents and grew up in Los Baños, California. Growing up, my family could be considered ‘working poor.’ Each Christmas we learned not to expect a grand stash of presents. What our parents did gift us was their love of learning. My mother went to school up to sixth grade and my dad finished the high school equivalent in Mexico and went to night school in the U.S. to learn English. My dad had a love for learning and always had a book in his hands.

I recall— and this will certainly give away my age—the television advertisements for the ‘Encyclopedia Britannica,’ —a shiny set of black and gold books that contained all there was to know from A to Z. It was a book set that belonged in a fancy library, never could I imagine reading or ever owning a single book.

I remember coming home from school one afternoon and at the same time a shipping company arriving to house. I thought to myself, “Surely they made a mistake. We never order anything.” The driver headed to the door, and I was right behind him. I was going to have to tell him that he made a mistake. My mom opened the door, and I was ready to explain that he had made a mistake. He asked my mom for her signature, and she signed. I was very confused.

I saw 10 boxes with our name on it— well, my dad’s name on it. “What could it be?” I was so excited, it wasn’t a mistake! I helped my mom open the first box and to my surprise it was the A letter of the encyclopedia. My parents had saved for nearly a year to get us the set. I still remember the first book report that I did using the set, it was on the solar system.

My parents couldn’t afford the most expensive toys or the fanciest clothes, but their love for learning was an example that lives with me to this very day.

Even if the gift of nurturing a love for learning isn’t on your child’s list, it’s a gift that never goes out of fashion and one that kids (once they are older) will learn to appreciate.

Consider these gifts/experiences that nurture a love for learning:

  • A trip to a museum, zoo or university
  • Cultural music  experience (Mariachi concert, Posada, Folkloric dance)
  • Bilingual children’s books
  • STEM toys for teens, kids and toddlers

Remember, learning experiences are always more special when parents, grandparents or loved ones interact with children. Happy gifting!

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Alma Martinez

Alma Martinez

Alma Martinez is the Community Relations Specialist at Community Medical Centers, where she focuses on identifying barriers to healthcare access faced by low-income, diverse populations. Ms. Martinez is tasked with recommending solutions to bridge gaps in access to care for disadvantaged communities. Prior to joining Community, Ms. Martinez was a reporter and program host for Radio Bilingüe in Fresno— a community news and cultural network broadcasting information to Spanish, English, Mixteco, and Hmong-speaking listeners in California, the Southwest and to more than 100 U.S. affiliates. In the span of her 12-year career at Radio Bilingüe, Alma focused on issues facing Latino, immigrant and farm worker communities including— the uninsured, environmental health, education, immigration and civic participation. Born in Mexico, Ms. Martinez emigrated along with her parents to California’s Central Valley at the age of 3. She attended Los Banos High School and California State University, Fresno. Alma began her broadcast career at local television station KMSG TV59 in Fresno, where she produced a 30-minute documentary on the life of a farm worker family from Soledad, CA. In June 2002, she joined the National Latino Public Radio Network, Radio Bilingüe, as associate producer of the national news talk show, “Línea Abierta.”

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