You may not think it, but I have always been a shy person. Most people can’t believe it since I spend so much time in front of people speaking at public forums and even in the media. Well, we all have a past and part of mine was filled with living and growing up on Chicago’s Little Village community on the South Side back in the late ’70s and early ’80s. I was a cute but skinny kid who seemed to be afraid of everything. I wasn’t a smart kid and was never picked to be part of sports teams. I was not in the “in the crowd,” but I did have a few good friends to lean on. In my neighborhood, it was not uncommon to hear about someone getting shot or going to jail for something. Back then, thinking about when I was going to go to jail, it almost felt inevitable.
One might wonder: “Then how did you avoid all of that?” Well, I had a crush on a wonderful girl who was one of the brightest students in my school. She was on the Honor Society and me, well, not! I was totally into her and even drew enough courage to ask her out (with a lot of encouragement from my friends). I was ready for the rejection when she said: “Yes.” She became my best friend and always encouraged me to be better; to dream about things that I thought were beyond me and even got me to start taking my relationship with God more seriously. She would introduce me to so many people who were positive and supportive that I even began thinking about life without the fear of jail or violence in my life. Our lives took different paths, but she reached her dreams and became a wonderful doctor.
I, on the other hand, applied to go to college and was accepted at two. I began studying electronics engineering only to discover that my calling was to become a priest. In all my training and education, I would meet teachers who helped me see the gifts God had given me. They challenged me and pushed me to be better. I grew in self-confidence and skill because I learned to dream, and I learned how to make dreams come true. God had a hand in all of this because I realized that my dreams were His. I began to love what He loved and cared about what He did. God’s priorities became mine.
I am not a good singer, artist, dancer, painter, or author. I don’t have the gift of seeing the future, healing, or bilocation. I am not the holiest of men, but I am a good teacher, orator, counselor, leader, and friend to those God has placed in my path. Each one of us has been given talents to light up the world. It is God who gives these gifts. You must discover and discipline yours in order to give Glory to God.
Fr. Esequiel Sanchez