Most people have favorite places in their houses or apartments. I know that space is sometimes key to how people feel about places. And I am amazed at the lengths folks go to make their spaces do a variety of things. Some people use furniture to make their spaces just the way they want. Others use pictures. In fact, I have often commented that pictures in someone’s home probably tell much about him or her.
In my little living space it actually is the window…or shall I say, windows. When we moved to our current place, we chose a much smaller place than the house we left. But kids were gone and there was no need for something big. Besides, I would like to do things in life more simply.
I sit in my favorite chair and look out a solid wall of windows. We overlook a small creek, which is usually on the lazy side. In the springtime when the leaves come back to all the trees, it is no longer possible to see across the creek and the houses on the hill beyond. So in spring and summer the world actually feels smaller. I like that.
But the thing that catches my attention as I look outside my windows is the bench. It sits amidst a little garden-like setting that folks who live around me tend. The bench sits on the bank of the lazy creek. So that means I look out at the back of the bench.
It is not very big. Three people would fill it and feel pretty snug. The wood that makes the bench is fairly thin, although it is sturdy enough. But it is a bench that is built more like a long distance runner than a football player! In fact, a couple big football players would dwarf the bench and probably even make you feel sorry for the bench.
The fact that I like best about the bench is the fact that it is always there. It is not seasonal. It will be there through the heat of the summer and the glory of the autumn days that will bring color to all my leaves. And there the bench will be when winter claims the leaves and frequently leaves my outside looking like a white wonderland. Through it all, there sits the bench. I like that.
Because the bench is always there signifies some important things to me. In the first place, it functions as a symbol of hospitality. It is not very often I look out and people are sitting in the bench. But it is always there…ready for anyone to come and to sit. And that is the second important function: it never discriminates. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can come to the bench and sit. There is no race, gender, age, religious, or ethnic discrimination. I suppose it would welcome a murderer and miracle-worker alike. (And I am not sure I like that!)
In the third place there are no time limits on the bench. The bench will take you for as long as you want. It will continue supporting you as long as you need it. Too often in our lives, there are time limits. People might care about us…but not long enough. Folks might listen to us…but not long enough.
And now that the bench has taken us this far, I realize at the deepest symbolic level, the bench represents the spiritual dimension that I suspect most of us human beings long to have available to us. We long to have a spiritual dimension in our lives that brings the same kind of functionality that the bench signifies.
We long to experience in our worlds a hospitality that always welcomes us. And who among us wants that welcoming hospitality to be discriminating. We are all sitting ducks for some kind of discrimination because all of us are some race, some gender, some age, some ethnicity. Symbolically, I want to become more like a “bench person.” I want to develop this kind of hospitality and non-discrimination.
Spiritually, I also want to be a little more careful of the limits I place on others. I know there is a need for limits in our world. But when it comes to love, care and other spiritual goodies, limits are not usually the problem.
So if you see me trying to imitate the bench, smile and encourage me. And if you opt for “bench-like” behavior, God bless!