By Linda Jimenez
Chief Diversity Officer & VP – Diversity & Inclusion, WellPoint, Inc.

I recently became a grandmother—a joyful and proud moment for me. And now as I watch my youngest daughter navigate the journey of being a parent to my new grandson, Jameson Leo Ross, I remember the words of my parents—“Blood is inherited but virtue is acquired.” I didn’t fully understand this as a child, but the older I become the more their words ring true.

My parents were individuals of tremendous character and spiritual strength. My mother was graceful, dignified, and soft-spoken. My father was well-read and opinionated. Their wisdom was uttered in beautiful Spanish dichos, proverbs, and in English. They were individuals of modest means and limited formal education, but they demonstrated that character has nothing to do with titles or wealth.

The best lesson from my mother came from making frijoles. Mom took great care in washing and sorting her beans. After running water over the frijoles several times, she would spread the beans on the kitchen counter, then pick out and discard any imperfectly shaped, shriveled, or discolored beans. My mother would tell me, “!Ten cuidado, mija! Pay attention! One bad bean can spoil the pot.” I have come to realize that her “lesson” for me was not about the nutritional power of beans. It was about character.

“Character is everything,” she always told me. My mother saw her duty as nothing less than to shape my character. Honesty, responsibility, respect, and courage were among the virtues she admired in others and insisted upon in her own daughter. Her philosophy was that character comes from constantly weeding out flaws and weaknesses, and choosing right over wrong, just like preparing a good pot of frijoles.

My father taught me responsibility and emphasized the importance of being prepared. He wanted his only daughter to be prepared and self-sufficient and not to depend on anyone for my well-being. He assigned my brothers and I responsibilities around the house and we were expected to come straight home after school and complete them.
My parents also taught me to treat everyone with respect, no matter what their station in life was, whether they were a CEO, a rich person, a farm worker, or an uneducated worker, since people’s worth was not in their earthly station, but in their character.

These are building blocks of character I hope to instill in my grandchildren—as long as you always do your best, don’t think you are better or worse than anyone else, and do the best you can do, you can hold your head high. Perfection isn’t easy to achieve, but even in the most ordinary daily activities we can develop ourselves, our inner strength, and our potential. We have a model for rooting out all the little negative traits and habits—my mother making frijoles.