REGION — If love really does make the world go ‘round, then surely Liberty, NY resident Tim Shera is doing his part. Two years ago, Shera was visiting with a friend who makes homey, hand-crafted wooden signs for friends and customers to decorate their gates and front doors. During that visit, Shera’s pal held up one such sign, gave Tim a wink and declared “You have to have this,” brandishing a small piece of old barn wood painted with three simple words: “I love you.”
In fact, she had a few variations on the theme, in different colors, and as Shera eyed his choices, he decided that the pink lettering would be seen best from a distance. “I figured I’d hang it from the front gate,” he said. “But after getting it home and admiring it, I realized that I could actually hang it around my neck in public. I wanted others to see it as well.” Admittedly, Shera was curious to see what reactions the message would elicit from others, but he “wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming response.” On his first day out adorned with his sign, a complete stranger walked right up to him and said, “I love you, too.”
Encouraged by this reaction, Shera was delighted and continued his quest to spread the word. “That first interaction is the most common, and it made my heart leap with joy,” he shared. “Oh boy, I think I might be onto something here.” From that moment, Shera decided to always have his sign with him, and to continue to engage with folks as he went about his daily life. “I wear it everywhere!” he enthused. “I grab it every time I venture out into the world, whether it’s the grocery store, or library, or the campus at Sullivan County Community College.”
Now in his second year of spreading the word, he has become a familiar sight to students on campus, and it’s those same kids who continue to encourage him and respond in such positive ways. “Hey, I know you!” is often heard in the halls that he frequents, and Shera feels that his earnest willingness to make eye contact is part of the experience. “Although everyone is wonderful, it’s the kids that stand out,” he said. “I know that it’s universal, everyone wants to be loved, and my sign is a way of telling the world that they are. I think that’s what sparked my idea to write down the beautiful responses, since the comments were inspirational to me. I thought that sharing them with others might have the same effect, so I started a journal.”
That notebook became Shera’s self-published booklet, “The Heartland Security Handbook,” a modest 20-page colorful compendium of anecdotes on his experience sharing the love. “This journey has changed me,” Shera, age 78, admitted. “I didn’t do this to make money and in fact, am in the process of finding organizations dedicated to the same spirit, groups which I plan to donate to,” he said. “I had plenty of help along the way.” Those acknowledgments can be found in the book, crediting those who helped with graphics, photos and most importantly “all who have responded so lovingly” in return. Much to his surprise, his experiences have changed him. “Those three words are magical,” he said. “I’ve become more loving myself, more open, more vulnerable and even more spontaneous. It’s glorious.”
“Recently, I have watched the faces of friends as they read the handbook for the first time,” he shared. “It makes them smile and giggle all the way through. I’m so pleased with the words and love exchanged in this ongoing project, as this was my intention. I wanted the valves in people’s hearts to open and the handbook does just that.” In addition to the print version, which is sold locally at the Sunflower Health Food Store in Liberty, NY, “Heartland Security” is also available through Amazon (www.amazon.com/Heartland-Security-Handbook-Tim-Shera ) and an electronic version can be purchased for those with a Kindle reader. As an extension of his project, a website has been set up (www.worldwidelovein.org ) where visitors can leave their own love notes. To get a preview of the handbook,” visit www.youtube.com  and type in “Tim Shera.” Anyone wishing to contact the author can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
“The whole intention behind the booklet is to help love move throughout the world,” Shera said. “Any money accrued will be returned to the world by backing individuals and organizations that are fostering love.” In closing, Shera quoted John Lennon’s “Imagine” and recited, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. And if someday you choose to join us, the world will live as one.”