Wednesday, April 21, 2010

listening benches

It's been cool and breezy in Helen,Georgia where I have spent a few days in solitude.I love that word.April is a good time to come up to the North Georgia mountains as there are few tourists.

Today, I drove to Anna Ruby Falls.From the parking lot,it is a quarter of a mile hike to the viewing area and it is quite steep.The rhododendrons haven't bloomed but there are wild violets of deep purple and white,feathery white flowers called foamflowers and some trillium with reddish purple flowers.It was an invigorating hike and the crashing falls, two of them, are things of beauty.

On the trip back to the car, I took pictures of the stone benches that are next to the trail.I thought, these are poet's benches where you can waste time,muse and try to paint a picture with words of what you see around you.The enormous ancient trees shading the trail, the hemlock somehow growing out of a huge boulder,the wildflowers adding color to the grey and brown of the hillsides,the sound of the water rushing over the rocks.

As I went to my car, I noticed a separate trail along Smith Creek.This trail was placed by the Lion's Club.It is a path for the blind.At the entrance, a metal board has Braille and English messages welcoming walkers.There are posts down the trail that hold a thick metal cord that a blind person can follow.It takes them along the trail and here and there, a plaque in Braille will suggest that the person lean down and touch the log to his left. He will be told that this was a chestnut that used to grow profusely before the blight killed most of them.Another sign suggested that the walker touch the bark of the tree behind the plaque and see how smooth it is and this is a beech.What stuck me however, was the sign that suggested the walker step 4 paces back.He will find a bench where he can sit and enjoy the sounds.It's called a listening bench.How marvelous.A bench to sit and just listen.

Then my mind went off wandering as it does and I thought that there should be listening benches in every major town and city but for a different reason.This would be a place to sit and someone would listen to you.A volunteer listener would be assigned to be there for a couple of hours a day in case someone wanted to talk.Everyone would know about the benches and where they were and anyone who needed to unload would come by;especially the elderly and shut-ins.They would be brought and given a volunteer's undivided attention for however long it took.What a gift.

I know what you're thinking.This is crazy and dangerous and they'll be lawsuits.I know.If there can't be listening benches then the next time someone is talking to me, I'll pretend to be on a bench and give them my undivided attention.A small gift.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I think it is important to listen when complete strangers talk to me. It happens all of the time in NYC -- on subways, elevators, check-out lines. When you let go of the fear a little bit, you just might find that God has sent them to you with a message that you have been searching for.

sharon graham said...

Good point.Or your attention might make them feel valued or might help clarify their thoughts.