I will share more of Maria Matias’ story when I have time to do it justice, but today I want to acknowledge the influence a local couple had on her life.
The late Glen and Lois Bean not only took Maria and two siblings into their home when the family emigrated here from Guatemala, but they also nurtured and encouraged the young woman to aspire to anything she could dream of.
And she did.
Maria is now a very successful dental hygienist whose skillful hands and cheerful smile are helping many youngsters have better oral health and general health as a result.
Maria’s story is the true epitome of the American dream. Her family escaped Guatemala in a time of civil war in the 1980’s and literally worked their way northward to a better life. That better life did not come right away. They lived in incredibly primitive conditions, sometimes even cardboard boxes, for two years in Mexico before coming up to the United States. With the promise of work in Alamosa, Maria’s father left California, where the family had first migrated, and came to the San Luis Valley.
Unfortunately, the work he was promised did not materialize, and the family lived at La Puente’s homeless shelter for six months. They then moved into very cramped quarters of their own, but as the family grew to eight, there was not enough space for all of them.
Enter, the Beans. The Beans were volunteering at La Puente at the time they met Maria’s family, and they became sponsors for this refugee family, who subsequently became citizens.
The Beans took three of the children into their home and embraced these young people as their own children. They helped them with schoolwork. They encouraged them to excel and to dream. Maria — who came to this country without a knowledge of English and even Spanish as a foreign language (her native language is Mayan) — made the honor roll, became involved in clubs at school and followed the Beans’ example volunteering in her newly adopted community.
Maria cannot talk highly enough about Grandpa Glen and Grandma Lois, and when she does, she becomes extremely emotional. They were so important in her life, and their influence continues through Maria’s caring and generous actions towards others, just like Grandpa Glen and Grandma Lois cared for her.
Another wonderful gift they gave to Maria was their faith. They lived it every moment in front of her, and she received the gift as her own. They prayed at meals, something Maria was not accustomed to doing. The Beans’ faith was as natural in their lives as the Valley’s sunshine and just as warm.
They lived long enough to see Maria become a self-confident young woman with hope, skill and faith. They may or may not have realized how much they were responsible for her success, but even if they knew, they would never have accepted the recognition for it. They were humble, giving people.
And Maria is the living example of their most generous gifts.