Once there was a poor young man who grew up in the small village of Maunabo, Puerto Rico, who had a dream.

This young boy, named Ramon, was the 15th child born in his family. His mother was 46 when he was born, and almost lost her own life during the birth .

Born in 1925, a child of the depression, Ramon started working to help support his large family when he was just 7 years old. One of his jobs was selling pastries. On Fridays, young Ramon would walk a mile to the nearby sugar cane plantation, carrying a large basket of pastries on his head to sell them to the "macheteros" -- the men who worked in the fields all day cutting stalks of sugar cane with their sharp machetes.

"Boy, those pastries went fast!" Ramon would tell his mother.

When he was 8-years-old, Ramon developed a terrible toothache. He had to hike to the outskirts of his small village to see the dentist. The dentist placed him in a kitchen chair, gave him a shot, and pulled the tooth. Expecting to feel pain, Ramon felt nothing but relief. "Someday I would like to be able to do that!" he thought.

The seed was planted -- Ramon decided he wanted to become a dentist.

Years later in 1944, when Ramon was 19, he was still holding onto his dream. He knew that coming from a poor family, he did not have the finances to attend college. So, he fantasized about winning the lottery and even envisioned a number: 14000.

Shortly after, a lottery salesman came into his mother's small store where Ramon was working.

"Caimito," Ramon said to the salesman, "I would like to buy a ticket, but it should be a number in the 14000s."

"Actually, I do have one," Caimito replied. "I have a ticket numbered 14165. Ramon, here it is!"

"I have a strange feeling that I may win the jackpot," Ramon told his mother after purchasing the ticket.

Several days later, on the day before Thanksgiving, Ramon took three buses to San Juan to buy merchandise for his mother's store, and to see the winning lottery numbers. Once he arrived, Ramon passed a placard displaying the winning numbers.

There it was! 14165! He had won!
Despite his premonitions about winning, Ramon had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming. Excitedly, Ramon raced to a nearby shop, and told the owner his good news. This kindly gentleman gave Ramon a ride to the lottery office to collect the first prize: $18,000, tax free.

It was too late to take the bus home so Ramon found a hotel to spend the night. He sent his mother a telegram, and told her not to expect him until the following day. Ramon could not sleep at all that night, thinking about this turn in his life. He arrived home the following day, Thanksgiving. Half the town was in the plaza to congratulate him.

There was a large celebration in the village that day. Ramon was able to help his family by giving each of them several hundred dollars. He used the remainder of his money to finance his education.
It was an arduous journey. Ramon did not speak English fluently and the first six months of college were daunting. Ramon would sit in the front of the classroom with his Spanish-English dictionary, and explaining his situation, would ask his professors to "Repeat, repeat, repeat."
He persevered and obtained his degree in 1955 from Indiana University School of Dentistry.
Before starting his own dental practice, Ramon worked for the Public Health department in Puerto Rico, providing free dental services.
"I'm a lucky man," Ramon tells his friends and family. "I have truly experienced the American Dream."
As his youngest daughter, I have learned much from my father, who had the wisdom to take advantage of his good fortune, and the tenacity to see his dream through. He has accomplished more with the gifts God gave him than anyone I know.
For this, I am proud to tell his story.

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad