Her English could only be described as broken at best and was interspersed with Spanish. But her pride was evident in her erect carriage and the glow in her eyes as she haltingly relayed her story to me while sipping at the freshly brewed coffee I insisted she drink.

She had started her treacherous journey to come here in a car trunk. The thuds and jerks made her dizzy. The bumps and jolts bruised her sensitive hips. For hours on end she had seen only blackness, smelled only oil and chemicals, feeling each piece of gravel pinging against the mud-crusted bottom. The air stung her eyes. She could not breathe. Her lungs burning, she cried quietly to herself. She bit her tongue so she would not scream to be let out, to turn back. She blocked negative thoughts out of her mind. Her silent pleas pierced the heavens as she prayed to survive and have a chance at a new life with her son in America.

Then suddenly she was dumped like garbage on the side of a dirt road, a gruff voice whispering to her to run through the brush for the border, calloused hands shoving her behind a bush. The sounds of her own blood rushing filled her head. Branches scratched her arms as she ran down another ravine. Desperate bodies came from behind her, others in their quest for freedom, knocking her into the dust looking out for themselves. Sand and fear filled her mouth.

When the helicopter's whirring faded, she emerged from the hole she had dug for herself with her fingernails under a shrub and started scurrying till she saw the truck's headlights. Sprawling on her belly, she could smell the fowl beer breath of the man sitting next to her and the rancid odor of desperation on the people crammed into the space around her. Laying in the filth she thought, I might just die now and never taste opportunity. Then she lifted her head to draw in a life-sustaining breath.

Her mind focused on her goal and her physical agony was forgotten as she put one foot in front of the other and moved forward mile after mile.

Climbing up the canyon, her head throbbed so much that her eyes were glazed with pain and she could barely see. Panting like a dog she ignored the sting of the thorns that tore at her skin and the hunger pangs that threatened to overwhelm her. Her mind focused on her goal and her physical agony was forgotten for the moment as she put one foot in front of the other and moved forward mile after mile.

Her feet were so swollen she had to carry her torn sandals. Caked in crusted blood and numb she no longer felt her body ache. Tongue stuck to her palate, she craved a few drops of water. Half-delirious, she no longer remembered when she had last had a morsel of food. But she had no alternative, she had to survive. She carried her family's hopes and dreams with her. America. She must reach America.

Maria has been working for me – cleaning my house-every Friday morning for the last few weeks – but this had been my first opportunity to get to know her. Stunned at what I had heard, I sat rooted to my chair and contemplated her saga.

Overwhelmed with emotion, I impulsively hugged her. I thought of the courage, resolve and determination of this simple good woman and how it had provided her with the inner strength, relentlessness and extraordinary perseverance that enabled her to pursue her goal and succeed against all odds. Although I did not condone her illegal actions in order to achieve her objective, I was somewhat mollified by the knowledge that her status in our country had since been amended. She had overcome not only the impossible but even her own intellect, emotions and physical organs in order to fulfill her dream.


Humbled I recalled the words of the Holy Baal Shem Tov: "From everything that a Jew sees or hears, he is to derive a lesson in his service of G‑d."

Nothing is coincidental; every event and encounter is predetermined and purposeful, integral in enabling him to fulfill his own specific and divinely ordained mission in life. A person never "chances" to witness anything—there is a reason for the experience, a reason which is closely tied to his own path in life.