A son of hard-working Mexican migrant parents, I learned early in life to overcome adversity, hardships, and life-or-death dilemmas to follow God’s path for me. Born and raised in a small Texas town, I grew up in a rural community among ten siblings who, with our parents, crowded into a small, two-bedroom home with a single bathroom.
I was the seventh of eleven children – eight boys and three girls. There were two sets of twins, including my sister and me. We were very poor with barely enough to eat and had few necessities to provide for our family. We learned to depend on one another for survival and comfort.
But our family was not without problems. My father was an alcoholic. When drinking, he would become very abusive verbally, emotionally, and physically toward my mother and siblings, as well as me. I was always afraid of my father when he came home late at night, because we never knew which mood he would be in or how badly we would get beaten. Despite his hard work each day in the cotton fields to make sure we were fed and had a roof over our heads, my father could easily become violent at the slightest provocation. His temper was probably fed by harsh working conditions and bleak prospects, and he had no one but us to take out his frustrations on. We knew that, and yet it was horrible to watch him come through the front door, weaving on his feet, smelling of alcohol, and thundering at the top of his lungs, “Where’s my supper? I want it NOW!” Everyone would scatter to do his bidding, my mother most of all, but in return all she got was ridicule and criticism, as well as occasional pushes and slaps.
Maybe that is why I enjoyed my school studies. I loved paging through the textbooks to see interesting pictures of faraway lands and historic people. All of them held special significance for me. I, too, wanted to do something to help others, as so many of these textbook people had done.
Yet, going to school was always a challenge and intimidating,because every day in the halls and on the playground I would get bullied, hit, mocked, and laughed at. Students made fun of me for wearing the same jeans and shirts to school over and over again, because my parents had no money for new clothes. We were lucky to get shoes, and when we did, they had to last a few years, even with holes in them. There were no ‘dress shoes’ and ‘play shoes,’ just one pair that we wore every day.
I would hear at home and at school that I was a loser, a mistake, that I would never amount to anything, and that I should never have been born. I felt worthless in others’ eyes, and my own.
But due to my love of learning, I graduated with high marks. I also was an accomplished athlete. By the end of high school I was voted Most Likely to Succeed. Looking back, I can attribute my success to three things that no one could ever take from me:
1.I had HOPE! I knew that if I believed in myself, things had to get better. They couldn't get any worse. I began to understand even as a young man that my purpose in life was to bring hope to those who had no hope, and to be a voice for those whose voices could not be heard.
2.I had a Dream! I would escape to the woods or a pasture covered with wildflowers and dream of one day standing before audiences to help them find their purpose and passion. Offering my message of inspiration and motivation could encourage them to be all they were born to be - champions in life! I had a dream that guided me through childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, and it has brought me to where I am today. My goal now is to help humanity DREAM again.
3.I had a Purpose! I knew deep inside that I had been created with a purpose to inspire, encourage, and motivate others through understanding and compassion. I knew I was not here to merely exist, but to pursue a life of meaning. I wasn't put on earth to be ordinary, but to become extraordinary!
"I remember going to work out in the fields to pick cotton, green beans, watermelons or whatever was in season. Everyday, I would tell my fellow migrant workers that one day I would stand in front of millions bringing a message of hope to the hopeless and would be a voice to the voiceless! They all thought I was crazy. They called me the "dreamer." They would tell me that my great grandparents, grandparents and my parents were migrant workers and that I to would be a migrant worker all my life. But I would insist, no, no, no!! Un dia! Un dia! Voy a traer un mensaje de esperanza a millones de gente!
I would speak my dream daily. Then one day I began to believe my dream. Until one day, un dia, I became my dream and walked into my destiny and purpose!" No abuse or hardship could take those things away from Ruben.
Through my up bringing, my education, and my faith, I learned to view obstacles as opportunities, stumbling blocks as stepping stones, and setbacks as a setup to take me where God wanted me to be so that I can bring HOPE to the hopeless, and be a voice for the voiceless.
But the path was not easy.
In 1991, my father suffered a massive stroke and lay in a coma.Though we anxiously prayed and remained by his bedside, he never recovered. When the doctor took him off life support, he slipped into eternity. I grieved his passing profoundly. Though he had been abusive toward us, he was still my dad, and I loved him dearly. No one could ever replace him.
Then in 1992 on my way to work, I was struck by a vehicle and taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. Tests revealed that I had suffered Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I was air lifted to University Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, where I underwent emergency brain surgery. Doctors did not think I would survive because of the severity of my closed head injury.
But God’s plan prevailed. Though seriously injured, I did not die. Gradually I overcame this life-changing adversity with phenomenal occupational and physical therapist, the support and help of family, prayers, and God. The simple things I had taken for granted such as walking, talking, and eating now became monumental tasks that I had to relearn. It was as though years of life experience had been swept away in that collision. Yet I persevered, and with God’s help I learned how to live a normal life once more.
In 2003, my beautiful sister was killed in a motorcycle accident. Although she knew I loved her dearly, I wanted to be by her side to tell her one last time how proud I was to be her brother and that I loved her beyond words. A huge piece of my heart was torn from me that day. She and I literally came from the same flesh-and-blood parents and a shared family history. Her loss wounded me emotionally more than the automobile accident damaged me physically. God walked beside me every step of the way. He was there to wipe my tears and ease my sorrow. The wound has healed, but the scars are still there.
I decided to enroll in Bible college to learn more about the great God that we serve – the King of the Universe who watched over my injuries and nursed me through them as tenderly as a mother with a newborn infant. I want to give back to Him a portion of all He has given me. Today, I travel all over the world with a message of hope to a generation that seems to have lost its way. Speaking to students, I urge them to follow their dreams and to let God lead the way. One of my objectives is to sound the alarm of epidemic bullying that is causing suicides and psychological trauma to our youth. Young people need to realize they are precious in God’s eyes and a valuable resource to our world.
If I can succeed, you can succeed! I came from nothing and became something, because while growing up I clung to my Hope, a Dream, and God’s Purpose! Don’t let your limitations confine you nor your mistakes define you. They only remind you of where you have been, not where you are going! Your destiny is greatness and excellence! You were born to be important - make your life meaningful so others will remember you with awe!