Ever feel lonely in a new place? Or lonely in a familiar place? Or just in need of a friend? At Taft, no one is really a stranger, but may need the support of a new friend one day. So Chhaya Griffin, a 5th grader, brought the idea of the Buddy Bench to our principal, Mrs. Quinn.
The origin of the Buddy Bench is a bit of a mystery. First reported in America as being created by Christian Bucks, a 2nd grader from Pennsylvania, as an antidote to playground loneliness and to foster friendship, Christian himself says he first saw the bench in a brochure for an international school in Germany. Where the children in Germany got the idea is something we may never know, but no matter, it’s a concept that works anytime, anywhere, in any school, anywhere in the world.
So if you ever feel a little lonely, a little sad, a little uncomfortable, or a little anxious, take yourself to the Buddy Bench, soon to be located on the Taft playground, for use during recess, not just to eliminate loneliness but to actively foster association and understanding. Built by Mrs. Quinn’s son, Sean Quinn, of beautiful pinewood and varnished to withstand the elements, it seats three comfortably (or four tightly, if you prefer).
Decorated in blue and gold by Chhaya and her friends Maddie, Anora, Sofia, Hailey, and Hannah, and unveiled at last Friday’s Taft Wizard Assembly, the bench is now a special part of our school. We expect it will get a lot of use, and can imagine that kids decades from now will sit on its lovingly worn surface and possibly wonder about who thought of it, who built it, and how it looked when it was new, back a long time ago in dusty old 2014.
So if you see someone sitting on the bench all alone, he or she probably needs a buddy, a moment of conversation, or even just a funny joke to get him or her through a rough moment, a glitch in their day. Some kids are especially good at lending an ear, or talking someone through something. If you’re one of those people, and you see someone on the bench, that’s your call to help them over a rough spot. Even if you’re not great at conversation, take a moment to go over and start a conversation and be someone’s buddy for a day.
The Buddy Bench can be used for building friendships. We expect it will be used for many years to come. And that is really Chhaya’s gift to us: not just a bench, but an open-ended conversation.