Stories from the coffeehouse: Unexpected gifts

vampire comic
One day I noticed a gentleman trying to help a mature woman with her computer. He seemed frustrated that he couldn’t help her, and apologized. Since I know something about computers I went up to her and asked if there was anything I could do.

vampire comic“Oh yes, I tried with that gentleman to get my computer online here but it won’t go online,” she said frustrated. “I’ve tried to get this thing working for two hours with different people’s help, and I have to send out my resume to a recruiter who contacted me today.”

“Well it’s your lucky day,” I said with a smile. “Normally I charge $X to help out people but since you’re here, it’s a freebie for you. So let’s take a look.”

Her laptop was at least 8 years old and had a basic copy of Windows XP on it. It was in poor shape software-wise because she had good intentions but not enough experience. She had loaded an anti-virus program that had some issues and that was contributing to the problem. It was actually due to several issues, but after about an hour’s worth of work fixing that problem and a few others that contributed to it, it worked. She was very diligent and took notes of what I did, and the software programs that I used to fix the issues.

“Oh I don’t know how to thank you!”, she said excitedly. “Now I can get this resume to the recruiter. I’ve been out of a job for 8 months even though I have a Ph.D. The company that I worked at laid my entire department off, so it’s tough since I work in a special field.” She explained it to me, and she was an advanced engineer with a ton of experience.

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“I felt so stupid that I couldn’t get this thing to work,” she said.  “Here,” she said pressing a $20 into my hand.

“I appreciate the gift, but I told you that it was free. I don’t expect anything from you,” I reminded her.

“I know,” she said, “but you deserve it. I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

“Oh I’m sure you would have figured it out.”, I said.  “You were very good at being proactive and installing things to protect your computer.”

She smiled and got busy and got to work. I went back to my chair and continued with my blogging for the day.

Almost every meaningful and life-changing thing in my life has been a gift. Not a material one like cash, but sometimes a gift of time or of the heart.