Voices From the Lab: Today Was One of Those Days… by Mimi Tilton, Austin Free-Net

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Spilled CoffeeSometimes even working at the greatest nonprofit in Austin can be a grind.  No, honestly!  Yes, we at Austin Free-Net are all passionate about the mission to provide free  computer access and training to the Austin community.  We work daily and nightly to ensure the continuation of our beloved nonprofit.  But, sometimes it’s just paperwork, filing, typing and … well … work.  Today was one of those “it’s a grind” days for me.

If you’ve ever worked, anywhere, you know this kind of day.  It started out with me forgetting to turn my curling iron off – after I already was on Highway 71 – so, I had to turn around amidst a whole lot of honking.  I spilled my Starbucks down my light-blue shirt when I was cut off in traffic on I-35 and when I got into my office, I had 37-million emails telling me “I may already be a winner!” in some phishing scam (okay, it was more like 10, but still).  Nothing I touched went right today.  There I sat in my corner computer area (we are in need of space here at our main office in The DeWitty Center) brooding over my ‘horrific day’ and whining about all of the filing I had to do to clear my desk when next door I overheard one of our Program Specialists, Natalia, on the phone speaking Spanish (I told you we need more space, right?).  I’ll translate what I heard for you:

“…So I want to invite you out to The DeWitty Center to expand our family and make it your own.  I invite you to a classroom where the teacher not only teaches, but she cares and more than anything your peers know you by name.  Here at Austin Free-Net, NO MATTER your past, background, ethnicity, YOU COUNT.  YOU ARE VALUABLE!”

Yes, she was that emphatic at the end and yes, I was taking notes on what she was saying. It made an impact on me.  When I heard her finish up the conversation, I went into her office and asked her who on earth she was talking to.  She replied, “One of my students is struggling with being resettled here by the United Nations.  He is from Honduras and is feeling lonely and a little embarrassed about coming to the bilingual computer class.”

She asked about my prominent coffee stain and I told her about my woe-is-me, shame-filled day and she laughed.   She gently reminded me that I am blessed to have a house with the tools to do my hair, let alone a car to have to turn around; I am blessed to have the extra jingle in my pocket to spill a Starbucks coffee, and so on.   She further told me, “Everyone has bad days.  People with money, people without money, people who are clients and the people on our staff.  Life happens.  Snap out of the funk and remember YOU ARE VALUABLE.”  She laughed again and for the first time today, I smiled and thought, wow, what a great day!

Gracias, Natalia….muchisimas gracias!

For more information on the United Nations resettlement project, visit  http://www.unhcr.org/.

Austin Free-Net is proud to be partnering in the very near future with The Multicultural Refugee Coalition, a United Nations placement program in Austin.  To learn more about the MRC, visit www.mrcaustin.org.

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