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?