The Man Living on the Bench

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A man lived on the bench near my building. I’d see him every day in the afternoons. He dressed in a black coat and pants and always had a large duffle in tow.

I’d routinely see him wiping down his duffle or protecting it from the rain and snow with an oversized trash bag. I always noticed the care he took of his belongings and how organized he seemed.

He was never there in the morning. I have no idea where he’d go from the wee hours of the morning until 2pm, but it wasn’t the bench near my building.

I hoped it was somewhere he could get a meal or shower.

It wasn’t that I never talked to this man; I did.

After seeing him for a week straight sometime last year, Geoff and I went up and introduced ourselves. We learned his name was Kenneth and discovered he was a vegetarian.

This struck me as odd. It seemed that someone living on the bench might not care what he consumed, but I always loved that he was willing to express a preference.

We’re all entitled to our preferences.

Geoff and I would occasionally bring him a sandwich or a Vegetarian snack on our way out.

He never seemed to be drunk or escaping life on the bench with a high. Instead, he sat there, still and seemingly content, able to tolerate the inevitable boredom.

I often wondered what he thought about as he sat there but admittedly never worked up enough interest to ask him directly.

The one time he did seem to be high completely shocked me. He stopped Geoff and me and started talking about Nazis, space, and a parallel universe.

If I hadn’t known him before that moment, it might have terrified me. Instead, we chatted with him for a second before walking away and leaving him to the world he was constructing in his mind.

Recently, I noticed Kenneth wasn’t on his bench.

And earlier this week, we got a notice that he had passed away.

I don’t know if anyone will remember or miss Kenneth, which bothered me.

So now you’re reading this email because it’s the only way I know how to remember a man that I didn’t know who lived on the bench near my building.

I won’t pretend to know his stories or remotely anything about his life.

However, I did learn things from Kenneth without him ever knowing he was teaching me.

1). A smile from Kenneth always impacted my day.

The recognition of our humanity and seeing another human smile can be contagious. We can impact someone just being who we are, and that’s a powerful thing to remember.

2). We need far less than we think we do.

Kenneth’s content, calm, and contemplative demeanor always intrigued me. I secretly think he was a Buddhist monk in a past life. Regardless, he always felt like an old soul holding wisdom from his bench where he was mostly ignored.

There’s distinct magic in connecting with other humans, even if we don’t know them. There’s something special about the connection of a micro-moment with another human passing by.

We so often prioritize the major relationships in our lives, but tiny moments influence our mood, too. If only we look up from our phones long enough to notice.

And sometimes, when you look up from your phone long enough, the micro-moment that happens leads to a more significant relationship. (This is exactly how I met Geoff, but that’s a story for a different day).

xx,

Alyssa

P.S. Some people in the building have asked the city permission to add a plaque to the bench with the words, “Kenneth’s bench” which makes me happy because that’s how I’ll continue to think of it.


A NEW EPISODE IS HERE…

There’s a new episode of Make it Mentionable out! Ron Cecil joins me for a conversation about creating intentional relationships—the kind that add more vibrancy to our lives.

We ask and answer:

  • If a marriage doesn’t work, is it a failure?
  • When is vulnerability helpful? Is the patriarchy hurting men, too?
  • What are our partners actually responsible for in a relationship?

And because surface-level convos are not my jam, we also cover:

  • How the patterns of our parents have a way of trying to creep into our own relationships and how to catch them
  • What it means to craft an intentional relationship/marriage
  • What happens when our wounds trigger our partner This is a conversation about the often vulnerable process of waking up to ourselves, and what it means to embrace that vulnerability in a relationship with another human trying to do the same thing in their own way.

Ron also shares what happened when he asked his wife’s dad if he could marry her (it’s not what you might think). And we both share the moments we recognized that our parents are humans, too.

Catch the episode here.

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