Charles Lamb: Old park bench helps facilitate friendships - The Buffalo News
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Charles Lamb: Old park bench helps facilitate friendships

A friend of mine found a discarded bench from a state park in the town junkyard. The wooden slats were broken, but the metal sides were still strong and sturdy. It had the park emblem on it.

Bob asked a worker if he could have it. The worker replied, “I don’t see why not, but let me ask approval first. I don’t want to get in trouble.”

Little did they know that it would take months and many meetings before it was approved. The Town Board had to agree that the bench had been discarded. The Historical Society said it had no interest in it. Park officials had thrown it away, but since it had a park emblem on it, they had to check with the state office. Finally, it was approved.

Little did those people realize at the time what good results would come from their decision.

Bob took the bench home, replaced the wooden slats and put it in front of his property. He owns a double lot, so he placed it in front of the vacant part of his yard, facing the sidewalk. Across the street, one can see the river. It is a beautiful view, and his yard behind it has flowers and is lovely. People walking to the center of the village would sometimes stop and rest there. Some thought his empty lot was a small park, which delighted him.

One day Bob was in a conversation with an elderly neighbor who lived nearby. George spoke of being lonely. He said, “I have outlived my friends. People I used to visit with are no longer here. It is sad to be one of the last ones; it is a lonesome feeling.”

Bob thought about that. So one day he walked to his neighbor’s house, knocked on his door and invited him to come with him. “I think I have an answer to your loneliness, George,” he said.

Puzzled, the older man came along. When they reached the park bench, Bob sat down and invited George to do the same. He did, and after a few minutes he commented, “Bob, this is delightful, but why did you bring me here?”

“Just be patient,” Bob said.

Pretty soon three ladies came walking by. Bob hailed them, wishing them a nice day. They stopped and began to chat. One said how fortunate she was to live within walking distance of the center of the village where the post office, grocery, drugstore and library are located. Another laughed about how she and her two friends often took an afternoon walk.

Bob introduced his friend to them and George joined in the conversation.

A little later a man came along walking his dog. Bob said, “What a handsome dog!” The man smiled, stopped and made the dog shake hands with them. George began to talk about some dogs he had owned in the past. The conversation lasted for 10 minutes.

After a fourth visit with people passing by, George said to Bob, “I think I know now why you brought me here.”

A few days ago, Bob’s wife looked out the window and saw their neighbor sitting on the park bench engaged in conversation with a couple of people. “Bob,” she said, “your friend is out on your bench. You’d better go join him.”

Bob looked out the window and smiled. “I don’t think he needs me,” he said. “He’s doing just fine. He’s welcome on my park bench any time. It was just what he needed.”

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