the bench

We talked about putting a bench in the grassy area of our cul-de-sac for over a year. Last week, our neighbor finally bought one and another neighbor bought another one. Now, there are two benches facing each other in front of our houses, like our little community of seven homes finally has a living room.

As I was preparing dinner yesterday afternoon, I glanced out my kitchen window and saw three of our neighbors sitting on those benches, facing one another. I’ve seen them outside in the past, chatting over newly fetched mail or exchanging comments about the weather. But they never chatted long, as their aging bodies wouldn’t cooperate with the demands of standing for so long.

I went outside and entered into the conversation with them for a while. They spoke of children and grandchildren, aging siblings and friends, the weather. They enjoyed the breeze and waved at the occasional passing car. They lingered. I made my way back to the kitchen to finish up dinner but kept my eye on them. They stayed out for nearly an hour. I’ve not seen them do that before. It isn’t that they didn’t want to be together, but before it wasn’t so easy. Now, they had a bench to sit on. And the bench made all the difference.

People want to talk about things. They want to relate and live in community and converse and be together. Sometimes they just need a bench. They need a place to get the conversation started, a platform that allows them to linger and find one another. The small group I lead every Wednesday night is like a bench for freshman girls, a place for them to come and share their lives and hopefully, see glimpses of Jesus. Tuesdays Unwrapped is like a bench for writers who want to share their celebrations of the ordinary. The book I’m writing will be a bench for women who are weary of being pushed around by fear.

Every community needs a bench. What kind of bench do you need these days? Are you waiting for someone else to put it out there? Or are you building a bench yourself?


  1. says

    Amazing concept that the bench made all the difference. One simple thing to build community when we try to make it so difficult. Great lesson, Emily. Thanks

  2. says

    love love this Emily.
    I do think of these blogging communities as benches.

    We have a green box bench in our neighbourhood. (one of those otherwise unsightly hydro boxes) It’s the well , the bench, the sacred space of our little world.

    What a terrific idea.

  3. says

    I love this post. Funny how we need a little help to come together.

    I have a swing in my front yard, under the big maple tree. I sit there most often to unwind. To watch the breeze in the trees. To listen and wtch the busy birds. To marvel at the beauty of the earth. To heal. To read my scriptures. To pray. To ponder. It’s my quiet place. As I am the neighbor most often to intiate conversation and relationships on our circle. My problem is getting people to understand when I am sitting on my swing I am already in a conversation.
    .-= Trisha´s last blog ..Simple Sunday =-.

  4. says

    Interesting how written words can spark a community, since writing is such a solitary sport. Writing PERSONAL stuff has always petrified me because you are basically having an intimate, exposing, conversation with the world…maybe I should read your book regarding fear :)
    .-= JoAnn´s last blog ..I Survived Halloween in May =-.

  5. RuthAnn says

    love the bench “metaphor” and reality. great for building neighborhood relationships!! love the idea!

  6. says

    Oh my dear friend. You’re tweaking my heart today. There’s been a thought in the back of my mind about a bench that I’m supposed to build. Maybe.

    Between your post and Melissa’s at (in)courage today, I’m thinking I need to get out my hammer.
    .-= Kimba´s last blog ..Will I See You at Relevant ‘10? =-.

  7. says

    I love this post too Emily. I kept thinking about the days (long, long ago) when we used to sit out on the front porch and visit back and forth with neighbors. It was such a pleasant way to spend a summer evening.
    I am thinking that perhaps we, each of us, set out little benches when we write on our blogs and click publish. We invite one another in – to laugh, to cry, to share….. It isn’t a substitute for our real-life relationships, but it’s a pleasant way to connect. Who knows, perhaps some of these relationships will become real-life ones!
    .-= Linda´s last blog ..Finish Well =-.

  8. says

    I think I may have begun building a bench at our women’s gathering this past week. I told my story, or testimony if you prefer, and found several others in our church who have been through similar circumstances. I already know these women, but now we have more common ground on which to sit and connect. God is good!
    .-= Holly´s last blog ..Today. . . =-.

  9. says

    Love these thoughts, Emily. My husband and I have had many conversations in recent months about what creates community in neighborhoods and how neighbors can build more relationship with each other. I enjoyed reading your insight and observations in this weeks Tuesdays Unwrapped. I am going to link to it on Twitter…

  10. says

    Yes! The bench! This is exactly what I have realized over the last few months in my artist-mother group. We had workshops where we created art about the transitions to motherhood, meeting weekly since February. We just had our exhibition (with six installations!) last weekend, and the responses we got from other mothers – brand new and aging grammas, was that we need to be sharing these stories out loud. You are exactly right – people do desire community, listening ears, a venue for conversation. I’m so honored and humbled that this art project I was part of created that for people in our community. And I definitely feel like your Tuesdays offer that, as well.

    I love it, Emily. A bench. It’s perfect. I’m going to share this with the mamas in my group.

    xo elizabeth
    .-= Boy Crazy (@claritychaos)´s last blog ..on being heard =-.

  11. says

    Dearest Emily, such a lovely post. I lament to fading of front-porch culture, and I too search for the moments when a bench may be shared. I often find myself pining for that. Thank you for your lovely blog and especially “Tuesdays Unwrapped.” I have participated for some time, and I have enjoyed reading the lovely, sometimes profound, and sometimes so tenderly simple blessings that I feel as if each were a little gift.

  12. says

    This is a wonderful post, Emily. I live on a street of bungalows, many with cozy front porches. In my walks around the neighborhood with the kids, I often sit a spell on a front step, or a porch swing, to catch up with Marge or Karna or Marion. The homes are humble — nothing big or fancy. No master suites or sprawling backyards or ginormous kitchens (not that I don’t wish for those things sometimes, too!!). I think I could toss a tomato out my kitchen window and hit the house next door no problem. But we have front porches…and that makes all the difference. I just love this about my community. It feels real and comforting. It feels like love.
    .-= Michelle at Graceful´s last blog ..Sundays are for Remembering =-.

  13. says

    Oh, I LOVE this! We live in a neighborhood of busyness. Everyone is running in one direction or another. We have no commonality. We have no benches, neither symbolic nor actual. I’m pondering this as I sit here now…

    I am also thinking of other areas of my relationship life which could use a bench.

    This post is a bit of a mission statement, I think.
    .-= Debbie´s last blog ..Things Pondered =-.

  14. says

    I love the story, and loved the way the bench changed everything. It’s so true what you write, but I never really thought about it this way before! Thank you SO much for this beautiful story and reminder! I guess I am sort of waiting for someone to put a bench in my life. Especially when it comes to situations I could have used to share about Jesus.

    I guess I am trying to wait for a comfortable time. Now that I am made aware, I am trying to build a bench by getting out there, trusting Jesus, and trusting that I also share Jesus with people through my way of living. In all this I am focusing on Jesus.
    -Ava Sophie

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