When world is against you, keep on smiling

Abraham Villarreal
3 min readMay 17, 2017


David Cota never stops smiling.

It’s true. America is the land where anyone can dream and achieve the impossible. The opportunities are there, but yet, for some in our great country, the American dream remains out of reach.

Guys like the ones I grew up with in Douglas, Arizona, the kind with brown-skin, from smaller homes, with parents who only own used cars, those kind of guys have a harder time realizing the full potential of American success.

The people I describe are not leading corporations in large numbers. They are not making judgments behind a black robe. They are not writing laws or directing movies. They can, but they are not, because they started that journey a few steps behind the rest.

We can complain, and we can wait for someone to give us a helping hand. Sometimes we do that, and we end up waiting for a long time. David Cota didn’t do that. He took a chance, and he did it with a smile.

Life is full of challenges and setbacks. When you think that you are headed in the right direction, somehow, you take a step back. It’s happened to David before, but every time, he’s picked himself up, and every time he has done it with a smile.

A child of Mexican immigrants, David, 27, was recently inducted into the Student Hall of Fame at Western New Mexico University. It was the closing page in the first chapter of a book that he has been writing himself. Only five students earned the honor.

I grew up in the same small town that David did, but I never knew him. I met him when he first arrived at WNMU. At that point in his life, David was taking a chance, choosing a new direction he hoped would bring prosperity for himself and his family.

We are so quick to form ideas and opinions about people, based on how they speak, their demeanors, and mannerisms.

I’m guilty of it, and when someone like David enters your life, you realize that people are more complex than you imagine.

They have stories that inspire you. Sometimes they carry the weight and burdens of those around them, but you don’t know it. When you take a moment to listen, just sit and listen, you learn so much about a person.

It’s hard to admit that a younger person can teach you so much about what’s important in life. But David has taught me, a brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking guy who hasn’t achieved that American dream yet, that life’s obstacles are smaller than they appear when you face them with a smile.

Maya Angelou once said that people will forget what you said, and what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

David has lived his life making people feel good. Not just in happy, forgetful moments, but in raw, personal ways. He has beaten the statistics, and most importantly, he’s done it all with a smile.

I’m so grateful to have learned about overcoming adversity with happiness from his life’s example. David, thank you for teaching me this valuable lesson.



Abraham Villarreal

People are interesting things. I write about them and what makes them interesting.