“Hi I’m Nancy, what’s your name?"

By Sarah Methuselah

The iconic blue and white striped Greeley Evans Transit bus in Colorado rolls quietly down the smoothly paved streets. Nancy Gonzales is one of the many passengers who continually ride and rely on the city bus. Yet, unlike her fellow passengers, Nancy is different in the best way.

Gonzales is special in her own fashion and refuses to let her abilities hold her back. Rather, she holds strong to a positive attitude and encourages others to “accept people the way they are.” Every day, Gonzales strives to be happy, as well as to spread happiness to every individual she encounters.

Gonzales was born and raised in Greeley, CO. She graduated from Greeley West High School in 1991, and works at the local T.J. Maxx. Additionally, she works at Envision, a local organization dedicated to supporting and empowering individuals with developmental disabilities. For the last eight years, Envision has provided Gonzales with work opportunities on the morning crew including recycling, yard work, and assisting others in moving homes. T.J. Maxx and Envision are just two of the places that Gonzales spreads positivity to others.

The staff at Envision has had a large impact on Gonzales’s positive attitude. “All the staff at Envision, they are a good inspiration to me, to help me to be respectful to others and to show my happiness to others every single day,” Gonzales said. As Gonzales works she keeps a bright smile on her face. In fact, Gonzales is always smiling. She smiles a lot to encourage others to be happy and show their pretty teeth.

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She said the key to her happiness is to have a positive attitude and to be thankful for each breath. Gonzales said that she likes to be thankful for the gift of life. She recognizes that it can be easy to view life as a struggle or through a negative lens. Yet, Gonzales said it is important to accept life the way it is and to always look on the bright side.   

One of the approaches Gonzales uses to spread her positivity and kindness is through making jewelry for others. She makes beaded necklaces, bracelets, and gives out gift cards. Her family, friends, and coworkers are among the many recipients of her generous and thoughtful gifts. For Gonzales, caring for others and showing her happiness is what keeps her going.

“I like to care for other people,” Gonzales said grinning from ear to ear. “ I respect them, I help them out, and I can tell them everything is going to be okay.”

Beyond work, Gonzales loves living in a small college town and being an active member of her community. She is a member of the University of Northern Colorado’s Best Buddies chapter. Best Buddies is an international non-profit organization that creates one-to-one friendships between individuals with intellectual disabilities and community members. Students at UNC established their own chapter in which individuals are matched with students who attend the university.

Amanda Stilwell is a senior at UNC and has been a member of the Best Buddies chapter for four years. She is approaching her second year as president of the organization. Stilwell describes Best Buddies as a little family who support each other. Additionally, Stilwell describes Gonzales as a light and someone who makes everyone happier the moment she walks into the room.

“Gonzales has an amazing smile, she’s always smiling,” Stilwell said with joy in her eyes. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her complain about anything, or be upset. I’ve never seen her be negative, which is super inspiring.”

Stilwell has many fond memories of Gonzales, yet one memory in particular seems to top the rest. Everytime Stilwell interacts with Gonzales, Gonzales reintroduces herself with a familiar phrase: “Hi I’m Nancy, what’s your name?” They’ve had the same interaction countless times, yet the simple interaction always brings a big smile to Stilwell’s face. Between her smiles and chuckles, Stilwell described the interaction as nice and said it was comforting to know that someone wants to meet her on a regular basis.

Similar to Gonzales, Stilwell wants to spread the message of inclusion. “Treat people how you want to be treated, and include everyone” Stilwell said. It’s a golden rule for both Gonzales and Stilwell.

Gonzales lives and breathes by this phrase. She goes out of her way to spread kindness and to care deeply for those around her. She continually engulfs every room in happiness and positivity. Above all else, Gonzales smiles every day and encourages everyone to give smiling a try.

Shreyas Hariharan