It’s amazing how something like a plastic shopping bag — and faith in the good of others — can have such a positive impact on a life.
Marilin Garcia, 18, can testify to that.
Shen she was in kindergarten, her mother couldn’t afford to buy her a backpack for school. So she improvised by using a shopping bag, instead.
The bag worked. But it also drew a lot of criticism from other children. And that is how a seemingly insignificant plastic bag became the catalyst for changing the young woman’s life.
The teasing she got from classmates about the bag inspired her to buckle down in school while her mother’s example helped her withstand the ridicule.
Garcia’s mother was a single parent with three children. They had recently moved from Mexico to Peñitas, Texas, just across the border and were struggling.
And it wasn’t just her lack of backpack that caught the attention of her classmates. She struggled with learning English for the first few years.
“I’ve been through a lot,” Garcia said. “We all go through a lot of hard stuff — but I know that when we came over here, when my mom came over here, we had a lot of trouble finding somewhere to live.”
Where some might wither under the constant scrutiny of classmates and disruption from a difficult move, Garcia used it as an opportunity to prove everyone wrong.
Plus, she saw her mom laboring hard every day at a clothing warehouse, trying to provide for her and her siblings. Shouldn’t Garcia do the same?
“My mom is really hard working,” she said. “She was working for me to become somebody, so why would I listen to somebody telling me not to overcome the teasing?”
So emulated her mother.
“I tried really hard. I was a top reader in my class. My grades were really good — they were all As,” she said. “I tried very hard to overcome what they were telling me.”
Later, when Garcia was having trouble finding scholarships for college, the school counselor recommended she go to the Buckner Family Hope Center for help.
Garcia, her mother and a counselor went to meet with Gabriel Flores, family coach at the center. He helped explain the college application process to them, and explained some options for scholarships.
She was encouraged to apply for a tuition scholarship from Buckner — which she received.
Flores said Garcia’s story reminded him of the passage in Second Timothy in which love, power and self-discipline overcome fear and timidity.
“Marilin has been through so many tragedies like her father leaving them, moving to a different country, learning a different language and other instances worthy of discouragement.” Flores said. “But to see her at the top of her class simply tells me she has an unbreakable and determined spirit.”
Garcia graduated third in her high school class and is enrolled at University of Texas at the Rio Grande Valley, where she plans to study nursing. Her goal is to become a physician to serve low-income clients.
This story was originally published at Buckner.org.