With three weeks left of work in Miami, I have had time to reflect on what I’ve learned and will take with my back home from my position at MRM’s Center for Women and Children.
- People remember the helpers and the not so helpful. It’s not surprising that our clients develop closer relationships and trust with certain staff members over others, but this happens with the women who come to our door daily for meals and showers. Even when we don’t take the time that we probably should to learn the names that go with each face, they are paying attention to us. Just today, I answered a phone and the woman on the other end asked to speak to my coworker who had the day off. When I told her that, she asked, “Is this the woman with green eyes and curly hair?” I have no clue who the woman speaking to me was, but she clearly knew who I was. I’ve even had people recognize me at bus stops miles away from the Rescue Mission. It’s a bit alarming when these situations happen, but these interactions matter and remind me to try harder each time I answer the door and phone to treat these women fairly and patiently.
- You have to laugh. Non-profit work, especially with such a vulnerable population, can be incredibly stressful. On a daily basis, I share laughter with my co-workers over interactions with clients, things that happened at home yesterday, or a funny picture on Instagram. These breaks are so important.
- It takes a village. I’ve had the pleasure of watching first steps, rocking children to sleep, being asked to read a book, and congratulating graduates from one grade to the next. We sometimes joke that some of our kids probably think they have 5 or so moms. Obviously they know who their mother is, but I’ve seen almost every child look up to an adult in the Center, whether it’s another mom, one of our single clients, or an employee, with a trusting light in their eyes. A homeless shelter is one’s last resort and it can be an anxiety-inducing environment for everyone involved, especially children. It’s important that these kids receive love and safety during their time at the CFWC.
- It might be impossible to make everyone happy. I’m not the biggest optimist, but there’s still part of me that wants everyone to be happy, and it hurt to write “You can’t make everyone happy.” This was probably the hardest part of my job this year. Admittedly, I believe I have the easiest job at the CFWC, yet it still bothers me a lot when I can’t accept everyone into our program because we are at full capacity or when we don’t have the exact size of pants for an outside guest. I’ve had to learn how to recognize when I need to separate myself emotionally from certain situations at work.
- Women get things done. I’ve loved working with all females this year. The women I work with are powerful in their own ways and I have picked up meaningful lessons and inspiration from each one.
- I love Microsoft Office. When I write on job applications “Proficient in Microsoft Office,” I want to add “No, but really. I am and I love it. Please hire me for that alone.” Today, I learned a new trick on Excel and am guilty of running into my manager’s office (who shares my love!) to tell her. I am grateful to work in a space that does not judge me too much for moments like those.
- I’ve learned to cook new things! Earlier, I mentioned being terrible at making coffee. One of my coworkers has spoiled me with her own coffee concoction and she took the time a few weeks ago to show me how she makes it. I’m slowly perfecting it on my own time. On Monday, another coworker took me into the kitchen and declared, “Today, I am going to teach you how to fry fish and make real macaroni and cheese.” My southern heart was satisfied.
- Babies make me happy. My days are rated by how many babies I got to hold at work. When a mom trusts me with her children, even for 30 seconds while she gets something from her room, it makes my day.
My year with the Center for Women and Children has been amazingly positive. I am thankful for my coworkers’ and clients’ patience with my questions, my love of my “Jesus sandals,” and my moments of poor judgement and for giving me the time I need to come out of the shell I tend to cling onto. I’m sorry that I’m seemingly abandoning y’all for the great state of North Carolina, but I hope you trust that this is the best next step for my life right now.