I recently took a long walk through my neighborhood and beyond not only to smell the summer flowers but because I am currently without a vehicle. I live in a small suburb of a large city with the feel of the country but with all the city’s amenities. There is literally everything an American could possibly need (and perhaps want) close to the center of the town in which I live. If I desired, I could stumble into a Starbucks, visit Home Depot, buy used books, hang out at the local bar, watch a local rendition of the play, Oklahoma, or visit the farmer’s market all in one afternoon with ease. All of this is about four miles from where I live via a beautiful, paved, and clean biking/walking path filled with the sounds of the birds chiming and the deer hiding behind the trees. As a cyclist and runner, I had never actually just WALKED the path to downtown until now. What a surprise!
Once I reached the downtown stores and shops, I ran a few errands, ate delicious Chinese food, mailed a package, and then finally relaxed at my favorite coffee shop. During my trek through town, however, I could not help but notice all the benches – everywhere. They were at the park, on the path, near the restaurants, close to the coffee shop, across from the daycare center, in front of the law office, across from the Italian restaurant in the old, Victorian house – everywhere. I had been to downtown many times but never, until now, noticed the benches. I was in awe. How in the world did I miss these benches when I rode my bike or drove through town on so many other occasions? How? As I walked, I began to appreciate each and every bench as I came across them. I noticed what was around and beyond them, and I became more grateful for them!
Glancing at one bench after another, I asked myself, “What else am I missing that if I were to slow down, I would enjoy, love, or even cherish? What is life trying to teach me when I slow down? What do I need to stop and absorb deeper? Or, what do I not see that is right in front of my eyes? What have I missed throughout my years of life because I was in a hurry?” I pondered these questions as I walked and walked and noticed more and more benches downtown.
I think most of us want to see only what we want to see. And, I believe we do not always see what we need to see. We also do not notice what life is trying to teach us when we are so focused on the destination (or the goal). Benches are snippets of our journey through life. They are markers that help make the walkthrough of our lives more pleasant. They are there to remind us to take a break, enjoy the scenery, and take a load off. They are there to remind us to pay attention to the details because it is in the details that beauty happens. They are on our path to remind us to SLOW DOWN. They are there to remind us of what is most important in life – peace, joy, creative expression, compassion, and love. The benches are markers and reminders of what we might be missing, what we might be hurrying through, what we need to stop and think about, or what we need to “see” that we are refusing to see. They remind us that life is always about the journey and not just about the destination. They are visual reminders for us to stop, breathe, feel, think, and just be.
I will undoubtedly walk the four miles to and from my house again this summer. And, this time, I will be walking with greater appreciation, greater ease, and greater expectation of not only every single bench on the path but also of what life is trying to teach me. And, I might just sit on one and ponder. You can too!