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Williams column: Helping navigate the world of computers

By Mack Williams
For the Salisbury Post
Before I purchased my computer, I would sometimes stop by the local senior center and use their computer lab. One day, in the weeks leading up to Christmas last year, I found a piece of scrap paper lying next to one of the computers, and on that scrap of paper were written the words “Virginia” and “crafts.” These words were inscribed in what might be referred to as a “crabbed” scrawl, with many of the lower case letters not being truly lower-case, but just miniature, identical versions of their corresponding capital.
Something about those words rung a bell in my mind, bringing back the memory of a somewhat older lady to whom I had given some computer assistance on an earlier visit there. On that day, she had asked, somewhat embarrassingly, if I could help her, as her computer seemed to not be working. I showed her the power button on the CPU, and she seemed delighted that the computer was booting up. I then typed in the senior center’s password for her so that she could have full reign of the internet.
It soon became apparent that the nice lady was not even familiar with how to Google topics on the web, so I showed her what should be done (it was not so long ago that I was as uninformed as she in the ways of computers).
The day was cold, and the lady was “country-dressed” for the chilly weather. Her coat, sweater, hat and gloves performed the job for which each was intended, but not “fashionably.” Her manner of speaking was very colloquial, and in it, I heard something reminiscent of some of my relatives in the foothills of the Appalachians.
As she was uninitiated in the left and right-clicks of the mouse, I demonstrated them for her. The extent of her sheepishness was such that as I demonstrated the mouse’s use, I was careful not to refer to it by that name, for fear of giving her a start.
She was interested in looking up the directions for making Christmas crafts themed to her native state of Virginia. I had the feeling that this sweet lady was going to make such crafts, not for herself, but to give them as Christmas presents to family and friends. It is said of such gifts, that they are more from the heart than are the factory-made items purchased at a store. I remember wondering if her clothes were also hand-fashioned instead of store-bought.
The lady had a certain timidness in her approach to the computer keyboard. She reminded me of myself, being anxious about touching the wrong note on the piano during my piano lessons as a child. I felt frustration on her behalf, that empathetic feeling having been well-taught to me by my mother in those occasions when I observed her manner of waiting on customers at Salisbury’s old W.T. Grant’s store, and later, in her work at Rowan Cooperative Christian Ministry on West Fisher Street. Such teaching stood me in good stead for my years later as a social worker.
I helped the lady print out the directions to a couple of Christmas crafts which she found to her liking. I kind of felt as this is what it would have been like if my mother were still alive, and I were sitting, there helping her to use a computer. Afterwards, on my way to make my exit from the senior center, I saw something which proved my conjecture about my helping of someone like my mother, to be in error. Such re-thinking was inspired by a glance into a mirror, prefacing my exit from the center. In that mirror, I saw that same striking resemblance which I always see whenever I look into a mirror (a resemblance, which when seen in the early morning, when I am not fully awake, leads to a fraction of a second’s confusion as to just who it is that I am seeing).
After what I saw there, I knew that what had just transpired was not the case of me helping a sweet person who reminded me of my mother. It was, instead, the case of a person being helped by my mother’s sweet soul, still present in the world, working within the one whose reflection was cast.

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