If This Bench Could Talk: Redux

Tucked inside every Sacred Place resides a unique bench that houses a waterproof journal. A letter greets visitors once they open the journal—a kind of welcome message from the bench itself. We recently updated the letter to reflect the story of our new—but very, very old—bench that wishes to extend a special invitation to Sacred Place visitors.

Welcome, friend.

I was just a sapling when the American Revolutionary War began rumbling. I was safe, nestled deep within a forest in South Carolina. Over the next few decades, I grew tall. Mighty, even. I towered over the area, knitted together with other trees to offer a thick canopy—shelter to the plants, animals and life below.

A few centuries later, I had another calling. You see, my particular kind of wood—yellow pine—was in high demand for buildings as America continued to prosper. Baltimore, around the turn of the 20th century, needed housing for immigrants arriving from all over the world, seeking opportunity and promise. I was harvested and built as a Baltimore row home—giving newcomers an affordable, accessible place to live. 

Baltimore Row Homes, Library of Congress.

How I loved housing the generations of people as they came together under my roof! Incomes were earned, children were born, meals were served, hardships were endured. And, oh, the cultures and community! This lasted a glorious century or so—until industries shifted in the 21st century, businesses were shuttered and people left. I was left to deteriorate for many decades.

I worried when the demolition crew arrived a few years ago. To my surprise, my beams were lovingly dismantled and then restored by a team of workers from Brick + Board. They marveled at my textures; celebrating my age and rich patina. I emerged in the hands of skilled carpenters at the Western Correctional Institution. Deftly, they then assembled me into a sizable, graceful bench—in a curved shape I’d never seen!—with a special compartment to house a unique, yellow journal. Gentle, masterful hands of wood experts from the League for People with Disabilities come to maintain me—keeping me healthy amidst the outdoor elements.

I’m now a bench in a small garden—a beautiful slice of nature nested within a modern, urban environment. This is a Sacred Place. And I am its centerpiece!

And you are here. Let me offer you a moment of rest, a safe place amidst today’s fast pace. In me is the strength of over four centuries—and with that comes a kind of wisdom, peace and tranquility.

Do not leave me until that strength and peace comes to you. Join with others who have sat here and recorded their thoughts in this yellow journal underneath—impressions, fears, hopes, and dreams. And, when you do leave me, don’t stay away long. I’ll be here, waiting for you—in this Sacred Place.