Overcoming Obstacles

SAN BENITO — A scar on the right forearm of 27-year old Santos Vallejo represents many things.

Most see it as a small piece of skin that has yet to completely heal.

But to Vallejo, the scar is the culmination of a lifetime of fear.

It reminds him of all the obstacles, hurdles and difficulties he’s had to overcome to be in the exact place where he stands today.

That’s a firefighter for the Pharr fire department, a sales manager at Sears and above all else an author of his very own children’s book.

But Vallejo’s scar also symbolizes the fear that held him back and controlled his life growing up. The fear of being called “slow, stupid and good for nothing.”

George Addair once said, “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”

In Vallejo’s situation, “everything” comprised of virtually everything. From a simple task of reading out loud in front of others, to speaking to anybody that asked a simple question.

As a child, Vallejo was diagnosed with a learning disability that prevented him from normally learning how to read, write and spell. Subsequently, he was put in special education classes until the time he graduated from high school.

However, Vallejo’s transition into adulthood began long before graduation.

At age 14, he began mowing lawns to help his disabled parents pay for the bills. Vallejo charged $20 for any lawn size in hopes of enticing clients to lean his way. For four years, he cut lawns for anybody that would let him, but there was one in particular that he remembers most.

After asking a customer if they needed his services, the man agreed and pointed him to a half acre lot. Vallejo reluctantly agreed.

“From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. I cut the grass hoping that maybe he would give me a tip, but when I finished he just handed me $20. I cried inside because I was so tired, but I got my lawn mower and lifted it up to my pickup when it burned my forearm,” said Vallejo.

“The next morning it grew to a big boil and I couldn’t cut any lawns because the vibrations of the lawnmower would cause my skin to tear and leak. My father saw my pain and somehow got me a job at Taco Bell.”

To Vallejo the job was a major step up, but it also highlighted the fear he hid from the world. The fear of having to read out loud and talk to number of people at a rapid pace.

When Vallejo was in the fourth grade a teacher told his mother to limit her expectations because at most, he would grow to be was a janitor.

However, despite the limitations placed on him that day, Vallejo’s fears have driven him to rise above them rather than run from them. And that burn scar Vallejo received when he was 18-years old ignited his pursuit of happiness, and his happiness lies in helping others. So much that he wrote a book.

It’s called, “Little Santos against all odds” and it details his life growing up being different. He’s been to 12 schools, five libraries and two Barnes and Nobles around South Texas. With a second book titled, “Little Santos overcomes obstacles.”

“Reading to kids feels good because there are still kids out there with the same problems I had growing up,” said Vallejo. “You can see the tears in their eyes because it touches them, you can see that it does something to them compared to just reading a regular book, because this is real and they’re going through the same things I went through.”

On March 28, Vallejo will walk up in front of 900 students at the San Benito ninth grade academy and tell his story to anybody willing to listen.

Every job Vallejo has job held, he’s done so with an inclination that he tells himself “I’m not suppose to be here” and it’s helped him confront his fears.

The two things fear could not suppress was his work ethic and his will to succeed.