Give Now

The Little Things

Photo of Martín at the beach

By: Martín Huerta

Renowned farmworker activist Cesar Chavez once stated: “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”

To me, Chavez’s words symbolized a mentality that has been drilled into my psyche by my very determined mother. As a young, curious child growing up in Lompoc, I had a truncated understanding of altruism - as most children do. It didn’t mean that I knew little in the way giving or being a part of a community. It was actually far from it. Rather, up until that point in my life, I had only witnessed expressly large examples of selflessness and sacrifice when it came to instances of how philanthropic good impacted others. To me, it was all or nothing, like ‘Jesus-curing-a-man’s-blindness’ type of big. It had never occurred to me that even small actions can make the most significant of differences until I volunteered for the first time.

During my senior year of high school, there was a class I took entitled Personal Finance and Investment in which part of the year was spent learning how to prepare IRS documents and taxes. Fun right? This segment of the class led to an exam that qualified us to volunteer at the local bank and assist in preparing W-4 documents and other tax related forms for the local Santa Ynez Valley Community. Being that I was bilingual (a skill that I never really paid much attention to), I was told to expect some Spanish-speaking clients.

Admittedly, I had different expectations of the people I would help, but as the day progressed I realized the variety of our community. There were people from so many walks of life, and a majority were native Spanish speakers who simply needed help understanding their taxes and deductions. Throughout the day, many couples and individuals, young and old working in the Santa Barbara County, were directed to me for help with translating and explaining how tax documents should be prepared. Seeing so many people who migrated here for a better life and learning the American and California tax system helped me realize how something that seemed relatively insignificant was of great value to another.

The more I assisted, the more I witnessed minds put to ease, smiles on faces and sighs of relief. Several days after the students returned to campus, we received many “thank you” notes for our work. It was a humble yet strong sense of satisfaction to know that a skill I previously took for granted (being bilingual) was able to impact so many people in our small community. To this day, I look back at that experience as the moment I began to embody the words of Cesar Chavez and how he inspired others like me to create impact and give to our neighbors. It certainly wasn’t a “Jesus cures a blind man” moment, but I still felt accomplished and inspired, and I hope that more people are inspired to do the little things.

Martín Huerta is the South County Office Coordinator for the Santa Barbara Foundation.
North County Headquarters:  (805) 346-6123  |   2625 S. Miller Street, Suite 101, Santa Maria, CA 93455
South County Headquarters:  (805) 963-1873  |  1111 Chapala Street, Suite 200, Santa Barbara, CA 93101