Abe Observes

abe villarrealAbe Villarreal is the Dean of Student Success at Cochise College. He enjoys writing about people, pastimes, and the small things in life. 

By Abe Villarreal

Sometimes words get in the way. It happens when we want to describe something meaningful to us. Big and long words that make up big and long sentences make sense to us as we think of capturing exactly what we want to say about something important; and still, what we write or say ends up not making sense to most of everyone else. 

I recently read a definition of what it means to be a community. It went on and on and as I read it I thought of an attorney’s office. Walls lined up with books that looks like encyclopedia sets. Phones ringing in the background. Suits and ties. Shiny shoes. People seen quickly walking back and forth through venetian blinds. And long, long words crammed into longer sentences. 

I say, rubbish to all of that! I like short sentences and even shorter words. I especially like them when we describe meaningful things like what it means to be a community, and as we began to tiptoe into a post-pandemic world, I think of what I miss most about what makes us communities. 

By Abe Villarreal

Sometime in the future, I hope our children will be reading an article a lot like this:

From March of 2020 to March of 2021, Americans changed their growing habit of sitting and watching, and scrolling and liking, and threw in a little more listening and understanding.

From March of 2020 to March of 2021, instead of posting selfies, we started sharing moments that made others think about their own lives. Moments that showed neighbors and friends, families and loved ones.

From March of 2020 to March of 2021, we spent a little more money on things that mattered, instead of cheap thrills. Things like sending a card to a loved one or buying a box of food for a neighbor in need.

By Abe Villarreal

Everyone remembers their first job. On the day I turned 16 years old, my mom told me to go out there and get a job. She said I was old enough to earn my own living. I should be making my own money, washing my own dishes, doing my own laundry – and that I should be doing everything on my own except living out on my own.

Like most teenagers, I didn't get it. It wasn't until many years later that I realized the logic behind most of what my parents told me all my growing up years. So in May of 1998, I went out to look for that first job, and almost on the spot I was hired at the local Kentucky Fried Chicken.

By Abe Villarreal

A couple of times of week, a man shows up at my place of work. He's a modest looking person, and the only thing he has on him is a lunch pail. He walks from building to building on our campus, and doesn't bother anyone but most people know why he's there – he's selling amazing lunch items.

Sometimes he has delicious homemade tamales made by his wife. Other times he has hot soups, or caldos, with crackers. He's been visiting us for years and still not everyone knows his name but most do love his food.

On Saturdays, outside the town's central park and on the main boulevard, if you're taking a morning stroll, you might bump into a woman with luggage cart. She's up to the same thing as that man at work. She doesn't have a sign. Literally no bells or whistles, but we know what she's all about. She's selling some homemade burritos.

By Abe Villarreal

Every Wednesday morning, at 6:00 a.m., come rain or shine, I open my laptop for a Bible Study with a couple of buddies via Zoom. Even Bible studies are done this way, during this time.

We get together to study scripture, but inevitably, we get to talking about life and share family updates. The three of us guys, roughly in the same age category, once worked for the same company until life took us to different cities and states.

Getting together this way made me think about what brings people together, things like common interests and shared experiences, and yes, even pandemics.

Between verses and our hypothesizing of what God is meaning to tell us, we open up about what is challenging us, what we fear, and the anxieties that fill our lives on what seems like a daily basis. And after hearing all this is, sometimes it makes me feel like we put most of this on ourselves.

By Abe Villarreal

We all want to more about what people were thinking in black and white photos. The older the photo, the more mysterious. People standing in place for longer than we can imagine, waiting for flash of the bulb, often not smiling. Yet, they were saying something as they tried to preserve their moments in history.

Each Saturday, I volunteer at a local museum and I rummage through old photos, deciding what is valuable to keep in the museum’s collection and what should be discarded. Often times it is a hard decision. What makes something like a photo of people valuable?

By Abe Villarreal

Sometimes I feel my life is an episode of The Wonder Years. Like Kevin Arnold, the teenager whose life is the center of the show, I can hear myself narrating my thoughts. It seems everyone can hear what I’m thinking but really only I can. 

Kevin goes through the ordinary ups and downs of life in the coming-of-age series. He falls in love with his childhood crush. He sometimes hates his best friend. He tries to reason with his parents. His older brother is his biggest nemesis. 

We can all relate, but where I see myself in Kevin, is realizing the big, important things in life, in the small, seemingly ordinary things of life. 

By Abe Villarreal

In the ongoing search for details on my family history, I have come up with one common thread – my family on both sides have been poor laborers for generations.

For five years, I have been digging through passport documents, census records, phone directories, and birth notices. I've found interesting names like Zenon and Maximo. The journey has been exciting and frustrating. You see, for a Mexican-American, this kind of investigative work is never easy.

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