From grapes to grace

My journey to redefine the American Dream

My parents came to America as poor immigrants from Mexico in the 1970s. They settled in California’s Central Valley and worked hard to carve out a living by picking grapes. By the time my parents had children they had secured a modest living, and they hoped that my siblings and I would be able to avoid the hardships they had endured as campesinos, or farm laborers.

My father wanted me to go to college so that I “wouldn’t have to work so hard for so little.” Indeed, my parents hoped that their children would fully realize the American Dream of achieving a measure of affluence and comfort through hard work.

Well, I did just that.

I went to college as I was supposed to, and soon after graduating I secured a job with a large corporation. I had the desk, the shirt and tie, and the modest affluence and comfort that the American Dream prescribes. I had bypassed the sweat and strain that my parents had endured and the struggle that most people in the world continue to experience.

I soon realized that the American Dream of affluence and comfort was not what my parents thought it was because I was still unsatisfied. Realizing this, I began my search for a life of substance and authenticity.

My search eventually lead me to enter the Abbey of New Clairvaux.

In this contemplative community I found brother monks who sweat and strain—often in a grape vineyard—to provide for a simple life of prayer and union with God. In this way of life I found men struggling in solidarity with the laborers of America and beyond, growing in compassion and sharing with those in need.

This may not be the American Dream, but it very well may be God’s dream—and with this I am well satisfied.