They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. My journey to love my neighbors started with a garden bench bought on clearance last year.
My husband helped me create a gathering space with the bench nestled in the grass near the curb where the children wait for the school bus in my Cary neighborhood.
The giggling kids who play endless games of tag before the bus arrived didn’t pick the bench as base. Parents kept their curbside vigil across from the bench.
I sat on the bench. It was sturdy enough. It was comfortable, but it needed a name. Once I put a note designating it as “Bus Stop Bench,” parents started sitting on it.
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One day, a caregiver stopped to read to her young charge in the afternoon. Bus Stop Bench became the lost-and-found spot for the neighborhood when an umbrella was left by someone and then picked up by someone else.
Spring came, and the bench was a little lopsided. The small paving stones we set it on last fall were sinking into the mud. No one sat on Bus Stop Bench. No one put their book bags on it.
I wasn’t going to let a little mud stop our journey to have a neighborhood gathering place. My husband and I hired a landscaper to install a patio under Bus Stop Bench.
“For real – this is for school kids?” the landscaper asked.
The next morning, the landscaper saw the group and added extra touches to the area to make this what he now calls THE best Bus Stop Bench in Wake County.
This summer, the idea for the neighborhood gathering space grew to include a Little Free Library.
Ethan Bordman, a neighbor Cub Scout in search of a project for his Craftsman badge, agreed to build the library. As the project neared completion, we set the date for the library ribbon-cutting to coincide with the time children gathered for the bus stop.
Through our Nextdoor.com neighborhood group, we asked for book donations and let neighbors know about the grand opening. The Grandchester Meadows Home Owners Association supported the idea, and our volunteer president Randy Faucette agreed to offer greetings.
On opening day, 10-year-old Ethan, with Cub Scout Pack 224, did a great job answering questions about the library.
“I painted almost everything and added glue with frog tape to waterproof it,” he said.
Julie Whallen has lived in the neighborhood for 18 years with her family that includes three children.
“It’s nice to finally have a community gathering spot,” said Whallen, who passed out the scissors for the ribbon-cutting.
I don’t know what’s next for Bus Stop Bench and the Little Free Library. For now, I am content finding books at the end of the sidewalk in front of my home.
I might even sit a spell to read one. Won’t you join me?