I recently saw a segment on the “Today” show about a young girl, Sammie, who had heard about the idea of a “buddy bench,” where kids who are lonely could go and sit, signaling other kids to approach them and ask them to play. It would ensure that no child ever had to be lonely during recess, and always had a friend.
Sammie was so moved by the idea that when she went home, she told her mother that she wanted to create a buddy bench for her school. She told her mom that she felt her fellow students could benefit from such a bench, adding that she herself would even use it.
Her mother encouraged her to pursue this project, and together, they contacted a company that made benches from recycled bottle caps to help them make a bench. To get the community more involved in the project, Sammie asked her community to donate their bottle caps to help make the bench. The community rallied around the project, donating enough bottle caps to build not one, but three, benches — enough to have one bench on each playground at the school.
I was moved by how much this little girl cared so much for her fellow students, never wanting them to go through the school day without a friend.
It made me reflect on my own childhood and my time in elementary school.
I remember this custodian at my elementary school who always looked so lonely. No one ever talked to him, and the kids would always walk by him in the cafeteria as if he didn’t even exist. I remember telling my mom how I thought it was so sad. So my mom encouraged me to say hello to him in the cafeteria, and when the other kids saw one kid talking to the custodian, they would be sure to follow.
So I followed my mom’s advice. Every day, as I would throw away my lunch before going outside for recess, I would stop and say, “Hi, Mr. David.” He would always say hello back, and before I knew it, we would often have conversations in the cafeteria or out on the playground if he was working outside.
Sure enough, when I was saying hello to Mr. David on my way out of the cafeteria one day, fellow students behind me said hello as well.
And every day after that, all the kids would say hello to him.
I began to notice a difference in Mr. David. He seemed happier; not so lonely anymore.
At the end of the school year, I remember seeing Mr. David out on the golf cart, driving around while cleaning up the playground. All the students were out on the blacktop signing yearbooks. When I saw Mr. David, I ran after him. “Mr. David! Mr. David!” He stopped his golf cart and turned to me. “Will you sign my yearbook, Mr. David?” I asked.
With a look of shock on his face, he agreed, and took my yearbook to sign it.
But when I turned back around, there was a line of kids behind me, all there to ask him to sign their yearbooks as well.
The lesson, from my story as well as Sammie’s, is that there are times when we might feel lonely, but we are never alone.
We may feel like we are walking through a lonesome path in life, but there are always others who are walking a similar path. We are not alone, ever, in any experience or situation, at any time.
Just as Sammie’s bench signals others to recognize and understand that another child needs a friend, we must recognize and understand when someone needs us to walk alongside them so they won’t have to feel so lonely.
Because we were not put on this earth to walk by ourselves. We were not meant to fight through struggles on our own, and we were not meant to carry on by our own strength.
We need to remind each other that we may feel like we are on our own, but we are not alone.
We must be there for each other, and say “I’m here for you.”
We must make it clear to others that they don’t have to travel through their journey lonely.
We must let them know that they are never alone.