On my personal walks, I pass by many benches. Most of them empty, lonely, waiting upon some sojourner to pause along their way to enjoy that particular place and moment… to sit a spell… setting aside their agenda other than to give themselves the gift of time to rest, meditate and reflect.

I enjoy taking photos on my walks. Here are some of the benches I’ve met along the way and plan to revisit on future leisurely walks and to picnic. These benches can be found throughout Alton Baker Park, around Discovery Park and along Fern Ridge Reservoir in Eugene, Oregon. The last image is of the bench I pass each lap of the track at the Lorane Elementary School’s sports field.

Oh, the stories they would tell, if benches could talk.


Under a Maple tree near the city park entrance,

sits a nondescript, weathered, plain old bench,

Hundreds have passed by and many to rest

Like mothers with toddlers tying up a loose lace,

Kissing scraped knees or wiping a face,

That old bench is a meeting place Tuesdays

for widows Mildred and Grace,

Who chat over lunch that they take turns to make,

discussing TV shows, world events,

pains and aches,

Then there are old Army pals Walter and Ray, who meet on Thursdays,

Checkers they’ll play,

while reminiscing about those former glory days

Who would know a simple bench with such a history

of events?

A place where love began or love has ended,

Then again sometimes where hearts are mended,

But to most it will only be

An old bench near the city park entrance.

The poet is Nancy Ellen, Crossland USA – reposted from Ellen’s poem is also featured in her book Within These Branches: Poetry of Life and Nature, described as “A journey traveling through the diversity and beauty of nature, the author leads us further into the world’s unique people offering a glimpse of their challenges, hopes and dreams. Appealing to a wide range of readers from teenagers to seniors, the author creates sensitive, honest impressions that are easily relatable to the reader. Reflecting on all facets of life with candor, imagination and a bit of humor, the author’s goal is to present a view connecting the people of the world by a common thread of life uniting us all in compassion and understanding.”


Thank you to my friend Ben DeVries of Not One Sparrow for sharing this wonderful bench story and photos with us!

“This is one of my favorite benches, along my favorite stretch of trail along the Des Plaines river in northeast Illinois. It was dedicated sweetly by a couple who loved the same spot.”

If you would also like to share your bench story or poem, please share it with us using the comment field below.

Taking a Year Off to Change the World? By Tori Pintar

“Take a year off to travel, work or volunteer abroad? The “gap year,” typically taken after high school and before university, is a long-held tradition in many European countries, and in Australia and New Zealand. But the tradition is unheard of in the United States. Author and committed traveler Rita Golden Gelman is launching a national movement to change that.

On June 20th, 2009 in Washington, D.C., Gelman held a brainstorming session with over 40 representatives of various organizations with gap year interests to discuss the formation of a national movement called Let’s Get Global. The project’s mission is to make the gap year experience an accepted and established tradition in the United States.

Let’s Get Global focuses specifically on international gap year experiences, with a goal of increasing Americans’ participation in the world community. Let’s Get Global plans to launch a public relations campaign to educate the American public about the benefits of taking a gap year. High school students and their parents will be specifically targeted. A detailed website will contain information about the programs available, the universities that support taking a gap year, testimonials of gap year alumni and their parents as well as information on funding. Integral to Let’s Get Global’s vision is that gap years be available to all high school seniors regardless of financial background. Let’s Get Global wants to find and create funding sources for potential “gappers.”

It appears that the Let’s Get Global project has arisen in a market ripe for change. America’s elite universities from Harvard to Tufts and Princeton already support their accepted students deferring admission to take a gap year. This Fall, Princeton will launch a new program in which 20 students will spend the year in service-oriented work abroad before starting at Princeton in Fall 2010. At the high school level schools have even begun to hold gap year fairs, according to USA Today.

Gelman and Let’s Get Global’s volunteers see themselves as an umbrella organization seeking to unite and intensify the gap year movement in the U.S. They believe that cross-cultural connections are the solution to decreased world conflict because those experiences develop increased respect and understanding of different cultures. “Connecting across cultures changes you, you’ll never be the same,” says Gelman. “When you sit in someone’s home, sit across the table from them and share their food, they’re no longer strangers, foreigner; you realize they’re the same as you. And you can’t drop a bomb on yourself.” For more information, visit Let’s Get Global: Crossing Borders, Sharing Lives.”

Tori Pintar for Ethical Travel News Team – July 2009. Reposted with permission.

To learn more, visit Let’s Get Global a project of US Servas Inc.