We have a student at the college who is in a wheelchair, an older woman with grown children; her name is Mary. She's a nice lady, she often asks me for advice about computing devices and software and how certain things might work best for the way she needs to work so that she can be productive despite her physical challenges. Mary has a sweet assistance dog named Mandee; Assistant dogs are not supposed to be interrupted or fussed over but Mandee is spoiled a bit and gets lots of attention.
When I got back from lunch today, I saw Mary and Mandee in the library so I stopped over to say hi and pet Mandee. Mary turned to be and in a very nervous and sad trembly voice started talking to me and because of what I later learned, emotional state, she was not quite clear enough to understand.
I got up from Mandee's level and sat in a chair so I could talk eye-to-eye with Mary and asked her to slow down a bit. She then explained that one of her closes friends, so close in fact that she was considered family, died and waited to know if I could suggest where she might get prepare food locally for the memorial service.
I find it so interesting that in an academic setting, there is still room for human interactions such as this one. In this case, I've given Mary a lot of professional time to help her with a number of technical issues and advise her on a variety of technical issues and in this moment of her own personal grief, she saw it fit to share that personal moment and ask me for advice.
I think in some way, this is a piece of an illustration on my thoughts about the impact of education on civility and civilization and society in general. I may teach computer science and work in the area of Academic Computing but I am also a part of the society in which I am a member and sometimes, it's necessary to reach out to someone who needs your help even if you don't think it's "your job" to do so.