The park bench that offered a remarkable view.

I’ve a slightly long and convoluted story to tell you today, but if you stick with it I hope you’ll agree it has true value.

Where we begin is that I’m currently experimenting with tracking my mood each day in a new way, and my daily scores are being automatically texted to my friend Josh down in Los Angeles.

The idea is for us both to get a feel for how this process works.

What’s it like for me to know there’s someone with access to my state of mind?

And what’s it like for him to have this information?

So, on Tuesday this week – just a couple of days ago – Josh noticed my score had dropped a little.

The dip was nothing like my lows of times gone by, but it was enough of a change from the previous day’s for Josh to feel the need to ask what was going on.

My answer to him was that I’d simply become a bit overwhelmed with thinking about the major project that’s preoccupying me at the moment.

That’s when Josh decided to give me a dose of my own medicine, in the nicest possible way, by texting “Maybe take a nice long walk through the trees today?”

Ordinarily I might have replied by saying “too much to do, can’t afford the time.”

But the nudger considered himself nudged.

And in the spirit of going along with the idea to see where it went, I packed up my laptop at 3pm and just an hour later was at a local park – the kind of American park with Redwood trees, streams, muddy trails, and horseback riders.

I figured I’d give myself an hour, so set off up one of the trails, quickly grateful to have got away from my desk.

Around 20 minutes into the forest, and having got a bit out of breath, I came across a wooden bench – the only one of its kind in the park, I think (I’ve been to this particular park several times before).

So I sat for a few minutes gazing out at the stunning view across the San Francisco bay, then something made me swivel around to read the metal plaque on the back of the seat.

Beneath the name of the gentleman whose memory it honours, were the words “Tough, Loyal, A True Hero – My Dad,” and the date on which he had passed away: March 7th, 2007.

But wait, March 7th?

That was today.

And I realised with a start that I was sitting on a bench in a very quiet park, exactly ten years to the day that this gentleman had died.

Which is where the story, I hope, has its value.

You see, sitting there, it occurred to me that I’d like to find a way to let his family know that I’d been thinking about their relative, even though I’d never met him.

I got back to my car, Googled the broad details of the bench plaque, and quick as a flash found a short biography – and an email address for a family member.

I could drop this relative a line.

But as I drove home, the old voice of discouragement kicked in.

Better not.

Might be a bit intrusive.

Perhaps there are other things I should be focusing on.

That’s when I consciously decided to ignore those thoughts.

I told myself that I should follow my heart rather than my head.

If I’d been inspired to reach out, then that’s what I should do.

So I composed a brief, hopefully respectful, email and sent it off – thinking that would probably be the end of the matter.

The next day, however, I was thrilled to get a reply saying that it was “good to know that he is recognized and remembered. I am sending your unique letter on to the family.”

My correspondent did indeed forward my email to a dozen others, one of whom then wrote some very warm words to me herself.

In fact it was she who’d had the bench placed in the park, in memory of her Dad – as the plaque said.

Of course it was a complete coincidence that I happened to look at the plaque’s words on Tuesday, the ten-year anniversary.

But I was so close to not sending the email, so close to dismissing it as a silly idea.

But I’m so glad I did.

I’m telling you about this chain of events not – please – in any way to blow my own trumpet, but simply to sow a seed for you.

The next time you have a chance to make some small gesture yourself, but your head tells you no, please do consider following your heart.

Seemingly small actions can sometimes create ripples, and every now and then those ripples can become waves.

The world can feel a cold, cruel place at times – but we all have the power to warm things up a little.

When you have such an opportunity, please grasp it with both hands.

Thank you.

17 thoughts on “The park bench that offered a remarkable view.

  1. What a lovely story, and a great reminder to get that message of thanks/encouragement/love sent before the voice of discouragement kicks in.
    The world could do with a few more heroes. And those who remember them.

  2. Lovely story and lovelier action. Human beings thrive on positive connection. Internally & externally. Ty for heart thinking!

  3. What a fabulous thing to do! I have the image of your thoughtfulness spreading out to others like a ripple in a pond. It seems you gave a few people some happiness by your one action. So glad you didn’t listen to the doubtful side of your thoughts. I hope the love bounces back to you as well.

  4. How lovely. I wonder if the family had had the chance for reflection on that particular day before your message. We all lead busy lives so it is often difficult to take a moment to stop and think of a lost loved one. And in your hour of doing something you needed to do for yourself you could do something for others is a true reflection of a good heart.

  5. Jon, that longer than usual post has made my day and whilst I consider myself to be stoic and a Brit to boot, i have very wet eyes right now! Random acts of kindness generated from the heart and not the mind or ego make us more human and spiritual. Thank you for this reminder.

  6. Hi Jon,
    I too was moved to tears (as was my husband, who quickly came and read your blog, after I called him, he was in the middle of something, but he felt better for reading your act of kindness.)
    I will tell my children who will very likely say “that’s spooky Mum” and they love anything Spooky.
    We go over to Budleigh Salterton quite a bit for a walk along the sea front, there are numerous seats with plaques and I can find myself getting quite maulding reading some of them. Also we have a donkey sancturary near here where there are a great number of benches, there are lovely walks and quiet spots to sit and relax, think etc.
    Hope your “dip” has been a short one, and you are now feeling less stressed.
    Bye for now Patricia.

  7. Thanks, Jon. The Universe has a way of working itself out, and showing us what we need to see. Good for you for noticing.

  8. Hi Jon – a great nudge, thank you. I have been a Moodscoper/Moodnugee from the outset. And yet, the wisdom of your words continues to reassure and inspire. Enjoy the weekend, one and all.

  9. What a lovely story you’ve shared, Jon. You know, I was raised on “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” But I like even better to remind myself “If you do have something nice to say, please say it.” As you did…

  10. A wonderful kind and generous gesture Jon at a time when you are not your best. I hope this continues to warm your heart as it has mine. Going through a tough period myself at the moment, it also made me reflect about others and spreading some kindness instead of focusing on my own difficulties. Have a good weekend.

  11. Thanks Jon – I’m not usually one for a long tale, short and sweet for me! Your convoluted take is an excellent exception. Serendipity is a wonderful thing and seems at it’s best when a tale/trail has been followed. I enjoyed the reading, and the ending left me feeling warm about all good Dad’s both with us and departed.

  12. What a great story!
    I hope the family got some comfort from your message (which I’m sure they did)!
    Your a good man Jon! An inspiration to us all to think of others.

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