By the time the computer shop owner unlocked the door, it was close to 7 pm, and I was a basket case.
I had just left a full-time but dead-end job with a magazine. I had started a class in grad school so I could get student health insurance for my family. I had lined up freelance work for a publisher and needed to begin without delay so the family could keep its head above water financially, but the software refused to work.
I had originally arrived at the computer shop just before closing after almost missing my daughters’ dentist appointment because I had been engulfed in vehicle exhaust for 45 minutes in a traffic jam on Chicago’s Lower Wacker Drive. A close family member was simultaneously furious with me and despairing about his career direction, and was looking to me for immediate answers. I had to get the computer fixed right away because I had to start on the freelance project right away because the money needed to start flowing as quickly as possible.
Seeing my quandary, Nahbi Mangoubi, the computer shop owner, urged me to take my kids home and get them settled, then come back to work out the problem with the computer. Yes, it would be after business hours. No, that didn’t matter. Yes, he and his wife would wait for me.
By the time I returned, I was shaking and near tears. Nahbi’s wife, Esther, came to me, touched my elbow gently, and said, “May I bring you some tea?” I gratefully sipped the tea and drank in her kindness while Nahbi finished working on my computer. He was able to resolve the software problem. I would be able to begin the next day. I thanked Nahbi and Esther profusely.
Nahbi looked over his glasses and leveled his gaze at me. “People are for each other,” he said.
People are for each other.
We provide services and receive them, yes. We make referrals and help people assemble resources. We ask for help and hope for the best. But we can do those things without making a connection, without cultivating a relationship; none of these requires us to notice another’s despair and bring a cup of tea and look into another’s eyes and say just the words that are needed at the moment. None of them requires that we stay a bit longer than we planned.
What if we make a habit of seeing as Esther saw? What if we regularly slowed down and accommodated ourselves to the complications of a difficult situation as Nahbi did? How can we learn to slow ourselves and see, to ask and act? How can we encourage one another as we do so, providing warmth alongside information, presence as well as service?
This is the primary focus of the Amberley Collaborative blog, and especially of this category on the blog, Stories of Care. As Nahbi so wisely said: People are for each other.
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