Cesar Chavez (1927 - 1993), founder of United Farm Workers (UFW), holds a shovel across his shoulders while working in the community garden at La Paz, California, 1975. (Photo by Cathy Murphy/Getty Images)

by Ross Brooks, CEO, patient

On March 31, we honor the birth and life of César Chávez, a civil rights and labor movement leader who fought for worker’s rights, fair wages, and medical coverage for all.

Chávez was born on March 31, 1927. He was a migrant farmworker from the age of 10. He became active with the Community Service Organization, which helped fight racial and economic discrimination against Chicano residents.

In the early 1960s, Chávez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association. He focused attention on the plight of migrant farm workers and gained support to have his organization be the first successful farm workers’ union in the United States. He used principles of non-violence, with strikes and boycotts. César Chávez remained president of United Farm Workers of America (AFL-CIO) until his death on April 23, 1993.

Chávez wrote and gave voice to the prayer of the farmworkers’ struggle, which starts with these words:

“Show me the suffering of the most miserable; thus I will know my people’s plight. Free me to pray for others, for you are present in every person. Help me take responsibility for my own life, so that I can be free at last. Grant me courage to serve my neighbor, for in service there is true life.”

As the son of a preacher man, I spent a lot of time in church and in prayer growing up in Colorado. However, I had not heard nor spoke the prayer of the farmworker’s struggle until I joined the Community Health Center movement and my friends at the Colorado Community Health Network introduced me to the life and work of César Chávez.

Chávez fought for values and principles that we hold dear in our Community Health Centers: service to others, opening our hearts to the suffering of the most vulnerable in our community, and taking responsibility for our own health and well-being.

The prayer of the farmworker’s struggle continues:

“Give me honesty and patience, so that I can work with other workers. Bring forth song and celebration, so that the Spirit will be alive among us. Let the Spirit flourish and grow, so that we will never tire of the struggle. Let us remember those who have died for justice, for they have given us life.”

At Mountain Family Health Centers, this prayer informs our mission of providing equitable and affordable care to all.  It calls us towards our better selves: patient, honest, hard-working, celebratory, courageous, and honoring of those that have come before us.  The prayer closes with these words, which vibrate with equal resonance from the 1960s to today:

“Help us love even those who hate us, so we can change the world.”

As our globe and communities begin to recover from a two-year-long pandemic, wrestle with the violence thrust upon the people of Ukraine, and struggle with the inflationary pressures in our local economies, we remain committed to loving, and caring for, our neighbors and community, so that we might do our part to change the world.

To read the Prayer of the Farmworker’s Struggle in Spanish and English, visit: A prayer by César Chávez, in Spanish and English – Fierce Urgency (usfca.edu).

For more on César Chávez Day, visit: César Chávez Day (cchn.org).