Mis Amigos This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     I walked in the door with shaky hands and my heartbeating a mile a minute. The building was beautifully decorated and I felt veryout of place. I had never had a job before and was nervous that busing tables ata country club wasn't really for me. I walked into the linen room and put on myburgundy bus coat for the first time. Now I was feeling more excited thannervous. I would meet people and learn new things. Maybe this would not be sobad.

Everyone seemed very nice and another bus girl offered to give me atour. We went to the main dining room, a smaller dining room, the bar and thekitchen. She told me not to spend too much time there because the Mexican guyswere kind of scary. I thought that was a mean thing to say but I listened anddidn't even say hello to them.

After a few days I became curious about whyshe had said to stay away from the guys in the kitchen. I asked around and hearda lot of rumors about sexual harassment. I decided to say hello to some of theHispanic men anyway and not listen to the rumors. I wanted to find out firsthandif they were true.

The first man I saw was short with dark,shoulder-length hair. I said hello and he replied with a shy Hola. When I saw thenext man, I said, "Hola" very enthusiastically to let him know I wantedto be friends. He replied with the same and a very broad smile. I decided thenthat I did not need to listen to other people. These men seemed verynice.

From then on I always said hello to my new friends in the kitchen.I'd had two years of Spanish at school and could somewhat

communicatewith them. I learned their names and a little about their lives. My favoriteperson at the club turned out to be Felipe, one of the chefs. He was the nicestperson I had ever met. He always yelled Chreeeessy! when I came in the kitchenand gave me a huge hug. He would ask me how I was and how my soccer team wasdoing. I learned that he had a wife and a son. He worked every day to supportthem and never complained, even though he couldn't play his favorite sport(soccer) or be with his son. He and Porferio, who also worked in the kitchen,always offered to help me. If everyone had the work ethic of those two, the worldwould be a much better place.

After three months of working with theseperfect gentlemen, all my preconceptions about Hispanic people were gone. I hadnever really thought about how hard it must be for them to live in a country withso much racism.

Then one day I drove home from school with a few friendspast an apartment complex known as the Mexican apartments. Some of my friendsstarted making racist jokes, and I was shocked. I couldn't believe my friendswere racists! I didn't say anything to stop them because I knew they wouldn'tlisten to me, but I wanted to scream and tell them they were wrong. How could myfriends be racists? Had they ever met anyone like Felipe? Did they know how hardit was for people like him?

I knew that if my own friends were racists,then there were many in my little town who were, too. My sister, for example,worked at Wendy's and told me stories about people who came through thedrive-thru and became upset because the person taking their order could not speakEnglish very well or had a thick accent. They would say, "If you are goingto live in this country, then learn to speak the language." I don't knowwhere some get the idea that talking to anyone like that, regardless of wherethey are from, is acceptable.

It has been over a year since I firststarted working at the country club and met my great friends. I still work there,but Felipe has moved on to a better job and, even though I miss him a lot, I amhappy for him. Now he plays for his new company's soccer team and has more timeto spend with his son.

No matter what I do with my life, I will rememberthe man who taught me that no matter what we look like on the outside, we are allthe same on the inside.

I know there is nothing I can do to change otherpeople's minds, but I can try to show them how I feel. I can teach them that itis wrong to look down on others just because of their nationality. My town isvery racist toward Hispanic people. I was like that once too, but when I metFelipe and Porferio, my views changed dramatically. If I had never met theseamazing people, my life wouldn't be the same, and I wouldn't have grown as muchas I have.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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