happy new year

Happy 2012! I hope everyone enjoyed a safe and happy holiday season. As this new year starts, back to work and back to schedules, I am going to work hard to keep the spirit of the season alive all year.

This year, as a staff service project, foundation staff volunteered at IDignity. IDignity was created to help the disadvantaged in Central Florida overcome the difficulties of obtaining the personal identification that is crucial to enabling them to become self-sufficient. For more information about the program, visit www.idignity.org.

The December event was held at the Orlando Rescue Mission. As a staff we spread out, working in different areas. I ended up helping with crowd flow as folks went through reception and intake. For some clients, this was a second trip to an IDignity event, they had already processed all of the paperwork and were awaiting a document  (birth certificate, etc.).  Those folks would check in at reception, where there was a door with a window, and a volunteer would often say, “Okay, wait just a second, let me check the list.” The client would wait patiently as the volunteer would check a few places.

If the door opened, it was great news! Document in hand, the volunteer confirmed the client’s identity and handed over the document. This was a celebratory occasion, not enough to just slip the document through the window and please move on your way. Volunteers offered applause, backslaps and cheers, with the clients in the reception area always joining in. For the client, the moment usually brought some tears, along with a story of how long this journey has taken. For some, it was as long as eight years spent trying to get correct documentation.

I joined in the cheering and revelry, but inside I felt a pang of guilt. I remembered back to when I lived in Illinois for a bit and had to get a new driver’s license. I was turned away because I didn’t bring in a certified copy of my birth certificate, just a photocopy. Even with my mom there, vouching the birth certificate was correct (she had been there!), even then they still turned me away. I remember the anger and frustration and inconvenience I felt, and now how out of context that was. All I had to do was wait for my mom to return to Florida, overnight the official copy and that was that.

My experience at IDignity was a great reminder not the let life’s little frustrations get you down. Even those working against insurmountable odds were able to face the day with a smile, a thanks, even a God bless. And I do promise, as one of my new year’s resolutions, to carry that experience in my heart all year as a reminder to always be grateful for what you do have. Happy new year!

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