If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart. ~ César Chávez

We have driven up and down César Chávez Street many times since our arrival in Austin. I must confess my ignorance and admit that it was just the name of a street to me. This week I wanted to talk of breaking bread with friends, so I went searching for the appropriate quote. I find César Chávez’s statement profound and appropriate as I reflect on this month’s sharing of conversation over the dinner table.

Delving into César Chávez’s life story, I discovered that he was born in Arizona and that he and his family were migrant farm workers. I have personally known only one other person who grew up in a migrant working family. We met Santiago and his wife Ellen in the late eighties in Europe. We were doing the traditional year of backpacking. They were travelling in a Volkswagen Westphalia, searching for peace after a devastating tragedy that had happened back in the States.

We crossed paths in Seville, Spain and they opened up their humble home on wheels to us. We travelled together for five weeks, sharing stories, new experiences and lots of food. We have not seen them since, but have sporadically touched base through the years and have recently laid the groundwork for a get-together in the not-too-distant future. They and their story touched our hearts. We look forward to seeing this unforgettable couple again.

César Chávez worked hard throughout his life, overcoming his own limitations and taking up the cause of others, fighting for their right to a decent life. Our hostess, the owner of this beautiful home in the hills of Austin, encompasses his story. She too came from poverty, worked incredibly hard to overcome obstacles, and has always supported those less fortunate. She continues to take a stand in the name of civil liberty and rights. We have laughed with her. We have cried. And, we have shared wonderful food.

Friends from British Columbia flew in to enjoy a short vacation with us. Throughout their lives, they have advocated for the underdog. More, they walked the talk, opening their doors to many people over the years with no strings attached—only a guarantee that there would be a sympathetic ear, a cheerleader and, always, plenty of food. It has been a great joy for us to share this time with them.

Tomorrow, we have company coming over. Yes, two displaced Canadians actually have friends coming to dine. We met our Austin friends in Cozumel four years ago and have remained in touch. They graciously treated us to dinner last week and, now, it is our pleasure to host them. These new friends will meet our old ones. And, you know what will happen. We will share some wine, some laughs and some good food.

César Chávez was an impressive man on a national scale. Equally important, he was an insightful human being who recognized simple gifts. We too are blessed to be surrounded by such generous people who share their bounty unconditionally. They make sharing our food, and our hearts, one of life’s true pleasures.