"The ode lives upon the ideal, the epic upon the grandiose, the drama upon the real." Victor Hugo
If you want a little psychological upper (with your coffee), you should meet my friend, Lori, who owns an espresso drive up here in Cashmere, WA. I think of her as the town therapist rather than a barista. She offers her services with discernment, open-heartedness, sincerity, and common sense. Doesn’t matter if she knows you or not.
For example, a new customer, a woman, drove up to Lori’s stand recently. Lori asked the standard, “How you doing?”
The woman responded with the usual, “Fine.”
Lori looked carefully at the woman. She had on sunglasses which made it difficult for Lori to see for herself the emotional state of the woman. But then Lori saw tears dribble down the woman’s face.
“You are not f---g fine,” Lori yelled out. “You lied to me.” (I probably should have warned you that Lori was in the Army and sometimes uses colorful language. I was too, so I know these expressions.)
The customer started sobbing. The woman was able to sputter that she had just had a fender bender. When she got out to check how bad the situation was, she thought she had put the car in park, but no.
When the woman opened the car door to get out, the car rolled backwards. She was knocked down.
The customer seemed to be emotionally hurting - humiliated, and worried. In such a psychologically broken state, the woman had chosen simply to get back in the car. She felt too withered, worried, and afraid to look at the damage.
Lori listened. She came out of her stand. Looked at the car. Leaned into the woman’s window. Told her “Hey, it really isn’t too bad. And the good news – you’re not physically hurt, no kids were killed. It’s going to be alright.”
Then Lori gave the coffee customer a hug for a solid thirty seconds. (I know this because Lori says those 30 seconders are the only hugs which count for much.)
This morning no one was behind me at the espresso stand, I could gab a bit with Lori. I asked her updates on various situations and people around town. She always knows.
Lori had already given a dignified greeting along with the latte she offered to Wesley, the guy who lives under the bridge. He suffers from schizophrenia.
That started us talking about people who suffer from mental illness. Lori told me that some of the folks she knows around town won’t take their meds because they think the meds make them feel funny or they can’t afford the money.
One woman, again a stranger, waiting for her coffee, confided to Lori that she was bi-polar. Everything had gotten worse during COVID because she was afraid to get vaccinated and lost her job.
Then, the woman switched gears. She told Lori wistfully, “I wish I could make coffee.”
Lori looked her in the eye, and boomed out, “Come on in. I will show you how to make coffee, girl.”
As it turned out the woman did learn how to make coffee. She turned around and showed Lori how to make burritos. You can now buy the burritos and all sorts of coffee drinks at the espresso stand. This little side job (burrito-making for the espresso stand) gives the woman enough money to pay for her meds.
Now don’t think Lori is miss nicety-nice to everyone. She will remind you in no uncertain terms to have some manners if you are unkind. Like when she was having dinner with an opera singer, and he was dismissive and demanding to their waitress.
Not good. Lori reminded the guy of appropriate behavior. And you’d listen too if Lori were talking to you. She looks you right in the eye. Talks so you most definitely can hear what she has to say. I’m imagining the little sermon. Probably went something like… “Think, mister, think. Be kind. Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
Lori oozes authenticity. She makes me laugh and cry. She pumps me up and gives me hope. She’s a nurturer. A keeper of the golden rule.
It’s people like Lori who make our little towns, our world, keep beating in a collective, coherent rhythm. Good on you Lori and all the people like you …and I do know a bunch. Unsung heroes I guess we call them. I’m thinking of a few of them right now. It warms my heart.
Warm hearts are good for us all on many levels – physically, socially, cognitively, and psychologically. "Keep your eye out for these folks, June. Be one." That’s the advice I mutter to myself.
How might we move up to The Good Life together by noticing our unsung heroes. Telling their story? Following their example in our own unique way.
Ode to the Unsung Heroes (by Moira Cameron)
Their heads are raised above the crowd To gain a better view, And what they see, they speak aloud So we can know it too. The keen perspectives that they share Enable us to be aware. We can with knowledge thus endowed Discern what’s true. We need these ones with voices raised To shed exposing light, Lest we in ignorance be glazed By apathetic blight. And yet attacked they are by some, With poisoned vitriolic tongue, Cowed by the threat of ideas blazed Towards what’s right. So here’s to those unfailing few Who make their voices heard; Who show us what we need to do With firmly spoken word; Who demonstrate with actions sound Where stalwart courage can be found; Who stay the course for me and you Yet undeterred!
(And if you a story of your own, please share it with me or with many others at kindnesscountsncw.com or on facebook at kindnesscountsncw. It’s good for all of us, love, June)