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Staff Stories: Ordinary Moments & the Power of Thank You

There are many tasks that face us each new day. And how often do we pause to appreciate the ordinary moments. Or to say “thank you”?

For example, maybe you are someone who makes a weekly to-do list to keep everything organized. When you take time to go over your calendar and prepare for the week, what does your schedule look like?

Those of us who are immigrants and who are native-born often have the same everyday, ordinary tasks– a meeting with our child’s school, a doctor’s appointment, bills to pay, going on a walk with a friend, or running to the grocery store.

Catherine Norquist (World Relief Chicagoland Regional Immigration Legal Services Director) reflects on how our priorities (or even tasks) shape us and the power of two simple words – “thank you.”

An Everyday Email

I got the email from a former client inquiring if she could come to see me. I immediately thought she wanted help with another immigration matter, so I quickly referred her to our front desk Admin person to schedule a consultation with another practitioner.

She replied to my email to clarify that she wanted to come and see me. She wanted to thank me in person.

I looked up her name because I had to remember what process we worked on together. I realized she was a citizenship client from almost a year earlier. We met on Zoom and went through the 20-minute legal screening process to determine her eligibility and then took the remaining 30 minutes to fill out the forms she needed to apply for her U.S. citizenship. I noted that she had previously gotten her green card through being a victim of domestic violence. We didn’t discuss her past because it wasn’t relevant to what we were doing, and I remember her being very kind. All I spent with her was one hour.

A few weeks later, she came to sign the documents and bring her money order for $725 since she didn’t qualify for a fee waiver. That was it.

I didn’t talk to her again as our Citizenship Coordinator followed up with her until she received her oath date. But she came back.

Returning to Say Two Words

She came back to say thank you in person at the end of a pandemic. She took the time and effort to come. I’m sure her life is filled with many things to do, and yet she stopped and took the time; time in the midst of a busy culture where I often hear in my head or I  verbally say, “I don’t have time!”

Yet she still came, she still took the time. It left me asking myself how I do or do not show gratitude to those who have impacted my life? Have I taken the time? Will I take the time?

She inspired me. I want to be like her in the courageous act of taking time to stop and pause in a moment of gratitude, possibly get a card and maybe a small gift, and actually go see someone in person (if possible) to say two simple words –“thank you.”

Thankfulness & To-Do Lists

Like most people, this woman likely had a long list of tasks to complete, places to be, and people to see. Yet she chose to prioritize visiting World Relief so that she could share her gratitude because being thankful is a value she has.

It is often in these ordinary moments that transformation takes place but we often miss them. What would it take to shift our perspective throughout the day to take notice of these small moments? How could we grow as a community if we lean into this challenge?

Next time you go over your calendar or tasks list, ask yourself “How I can prioritize showing gratitude to someone in my life?” or “What are some ordinary ways that I can make a difference today?”.

It is in the everyday moments that we build a more welcoming community, a community where immigrants and native-born grow and thrive together. When you volunteer with World Relief Chicagoland, you get to be a part of these ordinary, life-changing moments.

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