The Case of the Lost File

A few days ago, I was reminded how important some of the smallest tasks can be.

I was sitting at my desk, doing some data entry and report editing while the Legal and Investigations team met for their weekly casetracking meeting. My boss called me in to the meeting and asked if I could help find a certain case file that the Legal team had been unable to find for a while.

At that moment, I felt a bit grumbly.

“Sure,” I thought. “I can find a file. Anything else you want me to do? Shred receipts? Shuffle papers?” I had been doing what I felt like was more than my fair share of shuffling papers over the last days. Taking case files out, putting case files back, writing down dates, entering those dates into the new casetracking database that had consumed my work life for the last few months… I was weary of files and paperwork.

After hunting through the case filing system upstairs, I found the missing case filed improperly in the Closed Cases section, and brought it back down to the Legal team, much to their relief and amazement that the file could actually be found. Later on, the Legal Fellow whispered in my ear “We’ve all been looking for that file for months! No one has been able to do anything on that case since early February!”

I was challenged, and reminded of a very important truth that I often forget. When you’re doing the work of IJM, when you’re seeking justice on behalf of the widow and the orphan, a lost file is so much more than just a lost piece of paper. It means a stalled case, another month of waiting and inaction, another month of suffering for our client and her family who wait anxiously for justice while the perpetrator continues to occupy and abuse the home that rightfully belongs to them.  A lost file is a big deal… and I grumbled about having to find it.

So sure, I’m not a lawyer on the frontlines of IJM’s work, and I am reminded of that daily. But I am so glad for the lessons I’ve learned here – that even the simple task of hunting down a folder with a humble attitude of service and a commitment to excellence can have a huge impact in the work of justice. Now if I can only remember that life lesson the next time I have to spend hours doing data entry. 🙂

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