Rania Ahmed

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36, Partner @ Vaya

Tell us about a time when you felt cared for?

I'm honestly blessed to have so much love around me, from family, friends, and strangers. In a time when loneliness is one of the greatest silent killers of our society, the world of care I know affords me a richness in existence that makes me feel like the luckiest woman in the world. But I'll tell you about a recent time I was surprised by the care of a stranger.

I recently moved to Salt Lake City, Utah from San Francisco. On the day I moved into my building, I was exhausted from the long lonely drive but determined to bring up everything from my car. As I was struggling to move things slowly but surely down the long halls of my apartment building, I heard footsteps behind me. Coming from San Francisco, the land of many concern-trolling liberals, I was expecting to be peppered with ostracizing questions like "Excuse me, do you live here? How did you get in this building?" 'Are you delivering something?" "Do you have a permit to be moving at this hour?". So I, exasperated, turned around finally to face the situation. The stranger warmly smiled at me and said, "Are you moving in? I saw all of your things, and I was wondering if you wanted some help? My daughter lives three doors down from you."

Her name was Marsha and she had to be in her late 50's but probably in her 60's and looked really young. She insisted on carrying EVERYTHING of mine with me, as I continued to stumble in thank you's and apologies, while repeatedly telling her "you really don't have to do this!" while she waved off my concerns. After moving all of my things in. Marsha asked "Have you eaten? Are you hungry? Let me get you some soup, I just made some beef dumpling soup with bok choy for my daughter. Do you eat meat?" 

Marsha not only came back with soup - she also brought me a delicious pastry, fruit, and an avocado. And no, she didn't ask me to join the Mormon church or ask me for anything in return. She simply shook my hand and said "Welcome to Salt Lake City, Rania. Please come by if you ever need anything."

How do you provide care for others?

I try really hard to make myself as available as possible to anyone around me, but sometimes this backfires a bit so I'm scaling back. I'm also learning the art of showing more empathy versus jumping right into problem solving strategy. But, I think the most important way I (hope, at least) show care is by being present - by listening and creating a safe space for those I love, far away from the brutal confines of internal and external shame. 

Favorite self-care ritual?

Saying "No". Especially without worrying too much about whether I've upset someone/lost an opportunity or not. 

Who is a hero of yours?

Oh, lots of people, but right now, I'm pretty obsessed with Ilhan Omar. She's a hijabi, Somali, Muslim refugee - and she's crushing it. She's getting death threats everyday and a world of powerful men (and women) are hyper-focused on her and determined to ruin her. But she has remained consistently courageous, faithful to her core beliefs, and calm. She gives me hope for real change. 

Catherine Spence