Two Mondays this month I have had the opportunity - and the pleasure - to volunteer at Building One Community close to where I live in Connecticut. I served as an interpreter for the volunteer accountants helping the Spanish-speakers with tax preparation. The operation at B1C is a marvel, and the folks who work there, even more so. Everyone is so lovely and pleasant.
I was hesitant at first because anyone who knows me knows that I have an incongruous relationship with all things financial - taxes included. As it turned out, however, all I had to do was talk to the clients. And chatting, well, if there's anything I'm good at, it's yakking it up with the people!
My job was to usher in the clients and then, if necessary, serve as the go-between. Not surprisingly, we all had a good time, laughing and joking - even though taxes are no laughing matter, in my estimation, not the preparing, nor the paying.
One client, Juan (not his real name), shared with me about his life, where he grew up, how he arrived in Connecticut, what he does for work now and even his undocumented status. For someone who doesn't have legal status in the country, I was surprised that he was completing the paperwork when it seems that it might not be necessary. (My knowledge of the legal system is on par with my financial savvy, just to be clear.) Juan, a younger guy with bright eyes and an even bigger smile, simply said to me, "It's important."
It IS important, indeed. Of course I file my taxes every year, always begrudgingly. And yet, my new friend, whose circumstances could not have been more different than my own, was happily completing the paperwork with the help of some volunteers (and those women who were helping the clients - THE. BEST., I'm telling you!).
I smiled back and said to him (in Spanish), "You've taught me something today. Thank you."
Not only does everyone have a story, but everyone has a lesson to share, perhaps unwittingly. I'll be on the lookout for the next one - story or lesson - and I'll be ready. Keep your eyes and ears open, too, you won't want to miss the ones that find you, either.