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The Message

I approached the machine warily. Would I get it right this time or would I been embarrassed once again?
My favorite gas station also dispenses my favorite coffee. On a recent visit I discovered that their coffee pots and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee had been replaced by a gleaming metal machine with a touch screen. All new technology comes with a learning curve. It can’t be that difficult, I thought, as I touched icons on the screen. I watched as coffee flowed into my cup, over the top and onto the counter. After three attempts I left , with eight ounces of coffee in a sixteen ounce cup.

“Is that coffee any good?”
The question came from a woman standing behind me. I turned and smiled at her.
“I think it’s very good,” I said. “I come here for coffee even if I don’t need gas.”
“Is that thing hard to work?” She looked fearful as she gestured toward the machine.
“I’ll be happy to show you how it works,” I said.
The woman stood beside me while I demonstrated the process and prayed that I would get it right. I sighed with relief when the amount of coffee matched the size of my cup.
“Well that’s simple enough,” she said. “Thank you so much.”
I left her happily filling her cup and went in search of an apple fritter for my husband.
When I reached the checkout counter the woman was two customers ahead of me. She raised her cup as if to salute me.
“Thanks again for showing me how to work that machine.”
“My pleasure,” I said and returned her smile.
She paid the cashier, opened the door and then turned and thanked me once more. That was three thank you’s for a cup of coffee, I thought as I walked to my car. Then I realized that she wasn’t thanking me for coffee. She was grateful for the help I had given her. I suddenly realized that the fear, which I had carried for eighteen months, had disappeared.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I had been gripped by a fear of every person outside of my immediate family. I didn’t need shoe prints glued to the floor to remind me to keep my distance in a checkout lane. I stood so far back that other people unknowingly cut in front of
me. Why had my fear so suddenly disappeared? What was different now? After all, I still had the Covid variants to worry about. The answer, of course, is that I am different now. I am different because of the actions of my neice, Lea Maceyko.

Lea had grown weary of the animosity, negativity, and divisiveness so prevalent in our country. She felt compelled to do something about it, but what could one person do to make a difference? After much deliberation she decided to send a positive message to others. Her message isn’t new, in fact, it’s nearly as old as mankind itself. It consists of only three words, simple but powerful words. The message comes without instructions, attachments or conditions, leaving each of us free to find our own interpretation. Lea’s message is this: Love one another. The message reminds me to treat every person I meet with dignity and respect. It asks me to find that impulse within myself that makes me want to reach out to someone in pain and lessen their suffering. It’s that same impulse that makes a person endanger their own life in order to save that of another. All humans, I believe, are born with this impulse. Lea is a living example of her message. She greets everyone with a wide smile and a warm handshake or a hug. She has invested countless hours and her own money in making her community a better place to live. I’m not surprised that she has done the same to spread her message. She had the message painted onto the side of a building she owns in the center of her town. When people came to thank her they left with a small sign to put in their yard. Now the message blossoms in yards all over her community.

She started a Facebook page and created a website to spread the message. She shared it with the ministers of every church in her community and they shared it with their congregations. So it goes, being passed from one person to another. The message is spreading like ripples on still water. Who knows how far those ripples may travel or who they may touch. Will Lea’s message make a difference? Only time will tell,
but I like to imagine how different our communities, our country, might be if everyone believed in those words and acted accordingly. Imagine homes without abuse, and schools without bullying. Imagine workplaces where every employee is valued and respected. Imagine our country without gun violence and mass shootings. Impossible you think? Perhaps, but like Lea, I choose to dwell in possibility, for no
child is born knowing how to love or hate. We are taught these things and then we teach them to others by our words and actions. John Ruskin, an English writer, said this; “What we think or believe is in the end of little consequence. The only thing of consequence is what we do.”

Judy Titus July, 2021