Sit Beside Me. Can We Talk?

REFLECTIONS by JaneOnce upon a timeand the story has a beginning. Do you ever wish for a place to let down all your defenses, a place where every curtain could be opened, a place where you could say whatever is on your mind, a place to be at peace? Where is that place for you? Where would you begin to pour out the contents of your soul to someone who listens at heart level?

Walking the trail in my neighborhood is a lovely, tranquil escape. It winds four miles alongside the Thornapple river where vegetation grows thickly and little fur creatures can be seen scurrying through trees and into hidden burrows. For travelers who aren’t quite ready for an eight-mile hike, park benches are strategically placed at points that look out onto more picturesque parts of the river.

park-bench-with-textThere is something about a park bench that invites conversation. The empty bench welcomes the weary to rest for a while and drink in the silence of nature and let the calmness of the wind relax their soul. On my last walk along the trail, I spied one of those empty park benches. It just didn’t look right. There it was – like a strong embrace waiting for someone to climb up and spill their heart to whoever would listen. Do you ever crave time with someone who listens without judging, listens to your words then protects them so they stay guarded between the two of you? Do you ever need time with someone who has your confidence and whose wisdom and counsel you admire?

What if you could have this Once upon a time experience? Whose eyes would you want to look into as they pat the seat next to them and say, “Crawl up here and let’s talk awhile?” Who would you want to share that park bench with and share your deepest feelings and fervent dreams? Imagine being invited to sit next to someone who listens at heart level, with all their senses.

I don’t know any of these mentors and coaches personally. I don’t know if they are good listeners and I can’t see inside their hearts to know if the person they portray is authentic, but I want to believe they are. I want to believe they breathe out impeccable character and speak wisdom into people they encounter. I’ve read their books, listened to recorded messages, watched them on video, and heard from colleagues who testify to their integrity.

Here’s a place, crawl up here on the bench next to me where it’s quiet and stay while we immerse ourselves in the insight of humanity’s Most Valuable Players.

I’m having trouble finding my purpose and knowing what I’m good at. “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” – Vince Lombardi

Every time I think I’m ready to start working toward my dream, I start wondering ‘What if’ and I’m paralyzed by fear. “Basically, there are two paths you can walk: faith or fear. It’s impossible to simultaneously trust God and not trust God.” – Dr. Charles Stanley

How can I find courage within me to take the next important step toward my goals? “What is courage? It is the ability to be strong in trust, in conviction, in obedience. To be courageous is to step out in faith – to trust and obey, no matter what.” – Kay Arthur

Right now I feel like I have no brain. Why can’t I learn new things like everyone else?Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

No matter how hard I try, I never measure up to the other people on my team. “The reason why we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” – Steven Furtick

I’m tired of being average. I want to do something really amazing. “If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.” – Maya Angelou

I want to become the best version of myself, but I don’t want to be full of pride. You know. Like I’ve heard people say, ‘Never let pride go to your head, and never let failure get to your heart.’ What do you think? “Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.” – John Wooden

Sometimes I get so impatient with where I am in my life. I’m so focused on foresight and planning ahead, I can’t enjoy this season right now. “Contentment is the equilibrium between the enjoyment of life now and the anticipation of what is to come.” – Priscilla Shirer

Everything is going wrong lately, I want to throw things. I know that won’t help.We have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day. Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it. Our attitude is everything.” – Charles Swindoll

I have a joy jar and every day I add something to it that I am thankful for. It helps me remember that no matter what, there is always something to be thankful for. “If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.” – John Wooden

Yeh, I know all that about tough times making my character stronger … but. There is no cramming for a test of character. It always comes as a pop quiz. – Andy Stanley

These are tough times. I feel like I’m surrounded by little earthquakes that erupt out of nowhere and mess up my life. “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller

I love the word integrity but lately it seems like leaders in powerful positions are not practicing it. “Integrity doesn’t come in degrees: low, medium, or high. You either have integrity or you don’t.” – Tony Dungy

Gandhi, you are respected and revered among peoples of the whole world. How do you keep perspective and love humanity as you do? What advice can you give me that will carry me through life in harmony with humankind and nature? What can you tell me about finishing strong? “Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.” – Mahatma Gandhi

If you had the chance to talk to someone and pour out your heart to them, who would you choose? Whose embrace would make you feel at ease? The next time you see an empty park bench, sit awhile with your thoughts and think about what steps you can take to be at peace with yourself and finish strong.

It’s about the journey–mine and yours–and the lives we can touch, the legacy we can leave, and the world we can change for the better.

–Tony Dungy


Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
JANE’s professional experience is scattered across industries from financial services and insurance to engineering and manufacturing. Jane sees her background in writing and editing website content as the foundation to her current love of social media. Being an avid reader, meticulous note taker and lifelong learner has fostered her natural pursuit of sharing her world through writing. Reading books and summarizing content started as a hobby and has since grown to be a major part of her vocational experience. Jane says, “Authors pour their heart and soul into writing their book. When I write a review, it’s with intent to celebrate the book and promote the author.” Jane claims to be 'the best follower you'll ever want to meet' and has been repeatedly called servant leader, eternal cheerleader, social media evangelist, and inspirational go-to person. Jane is a contributing author to the inspiring book Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational Change.

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  1. Jane, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post – and what a wonderfully tempting invitation – “Sit beside me, can we talk..?”

    It was just another ordinary day in Izmit, Turkey in 1999. Ordinary people doing their ordinary work going about what they usually do when suddenly the earthquake hit – changing the lives of all the people in Turkey and around the world. 17000 people were snatched up into eternity and over 50000 were injured, families shattered, and yes you can imagine the shock suffering and agony.

    Joe from Europe, was just an ordinary person who responded without a moment’s hesitation to volunteer in the after search and rescue operations. After almost 16 hours of non stop effort in helping people, he pause to sit on a dust covered partial steps of what was once a building sheltering families now torn apart, just to get himself together alone. His knuckles were covered with bruises, hastily protected by band-aids, face weary, forehead blood stained and yes very tired. The heat , dust and atmosphere added to the weariness of body and soul. Alone he contemplated the why’s, how-could this happen and the various unexplainable questions that raced through his mind. He did not quite notice an elegant lady, now wearing tattered blood stained clothes, bandaged up, limping out of the shadows towards him. He was startled but did not say anything……. The lady quietly dragged herself to the same steps and sat down with a groan as the pain shot through her limbs.

    After a few moments of silence, she gently asked, “why……… please tell me why….why did you come here leaving the comfort of your home and family.” She offer Joe a half full plastic container of Ayran (Turkish buttermilk)….. This question surprised Joe, who had served as a volunteer in many countries earlier. He had not thought of the why’s and the wherefore’s before. It was just instinct… yet this question took him by surprise. It is still a valid question today as to the why we do what we do when we do and how we do – anything.

    Jane, your invitation – “Sit beside me, can we talk” .. is such a powerful invitation that almost all of us would like to experience, and yet most often, we do not take the opportunity to share a few moments with our loved ones, colleagues, friends, perhaps just because we are too busy with our own things to notice that they need a sympathetic look, smile or even a calming word. We just do not know what we are truly missing. One shared moment can change lives.

    The question by that lady who had suffered much during that earthquake “Why” did change Joe’s life forever. It gave him a new dimension and meaning to life and “why we do what we do when we do” made “sharing” a fundamental part of his life.

    Yes, I would love to sit quietly beside you and yes we can talk about the miracle of life while we still have the capacity to appreciate it in all of its wonder and beauty..

    • Jonathan – I don’t know what to say. The story you added is a beautiful illustration of how coming alongside someone else is so powerful in creating meaning in life when things don’t make sense. Your story deserves its own space, but thank you for sharing it right here. I would love to crawl up on a park bench and just talk. We sometimes confuse important conversations with essential conversations. Some of our most insignificant talks are essential to our love of life and relationships with people – and maybe not important for any other reason.

      I am thrilled that you are now a BC360 Contributor. I look forward to what you share from your experiences.

    • Thank you most kindly Jane. Your very significant “invitation” jogged my memory to the “Times of Fellowship” shared while helping people in various countries during their times of hardship, agony and sorrow. Since yesterday, I have used your “invitation” to invite almost everyone I meet to share a moment or two – perhaps even in silence. The visually impaired children are the very first ones to take me up on this and just a simple chat about “nothing in particular”, their feelings does bring tears to my eyes.

      It is so beautiful sharing moments with our friends, family and colleagues and perhaps even strangers… these are moments that we will never get back but will become alive in the tapestry of our life.

      I urge everyone … no…I challenge everyone to give this a try…

      Come sit beside me, can we talk….

  2. Len, isn’t it interesting that we don’t fully appreciate what we have until we face the possibility of losing it. Our best to you and your wife.

    Jane: Yes, that would be a wonderful place to work and grow. Let me know if you ever find one.

    • Ken – So very true. We trend to take our loved ones for granted until we are faced with the realization that life really is so short and fragile. I will never make that mistake again. Thank you for your kind wishes.

    • It isn’t likely that I will find a place to work and grow at this stage in my life, but I hold out hope for organizations to adopt that kind of culture for other generations of workers.

    • Thank you, Devaney. One day I was thinking how comforting it would be to be able to have a nice long talk with someone wiser than me. 🙂 Be blessed and encouraged.

  3. Jane: I have the opinion that many “leaders” don’t have a clue. They can’t tell you what to do to get that extra point in you rating because they have no idea. They just don’t rate you 100% because there is then no way to improve.

    • Thanks for this answer, Ken. I know you’re right, but it seems like there would be a benefit to having a blueprint for skills building and contributions. Why not be lead into a territory where we can at least be fed from the stream of innovating ideas to turn into goals and develop our minds, proficencies, and expertise? Sounds like a fun workplace environment to me. 🙂

  4. Jane, I always am in awe of the manner in which you can touch our hearts with words. I love the park bench analogy. My wife recently went through open heart surgery and my fear during the ICU time and recovery was gripping – because I realized how much I needed her patience and encouragement for our many “park bench” sessions. I am grateful she is doing well and I am retiring next year so I can enjoy every possible moment with her because there is no one else I can think of who can fill that space next to me on the bench. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post.

    • Len, let me say first, that I am thankful that your wife is doing well and that your retirement is just ahead. That is going to give you quality time together. I hope you enjoy many years of park bench moments that endear you to each other for this next season of your life together.

    • Jane – Thank you for your kind words. I have been privileged to be mentored by some really wise leaders but when I look back, it was always the time I spent talking to Hazel about my successes, concerns, frustrations, etc. where I knew someone who truly cared was listening and would give honest, truth-filled feedback that helped me grow and become a better person. Her “park bench” wisdom has been a cherished source of strength. I am looking forward to our time when we can now enjoy being “us”.

  5. Jane, you have no idea how many times I have thought most of these points. In my walk now with Spiritual Guidance to others this will be one of your post I will use for reference/resource. Your post will go beyond. As for the park bench? Well, I have a story that is on hold about a park bench. I hope to release it in the spring. Have a wonderful day and thank you for taking me back in time.

    • Lynn, I am already looking forward with anticipation to reading your story about the park bench. I too have had this on my mind for many months. We will enjoy your next article immensely.

  6. Jane: Isn’t it interesting that those we logically should be able to share our innermost secrets, hopes, and dreams are those we are least likely to share with? As you note, it involves fear of being laughed at, dissuaded, not taken seriously, or worse. Perhaps that is fed by our being too concerned about what others think of us.

    Most of us don’t/didn’t have a relationship with one or both parents like Eileen had with her mother. So, we see many coaches, analysts, and other paid professionals making a living off that condition. There are also mentors like you and I that offer help just because we wish to share what we have learned through life.

    Your quotes are very good. The problem with such bits of wisdom is that they often tell us what we should try to achieve without giving us a road map or method by which to do so.

    • Ken, I’m right there with you. I have read two books by Vince Lombardi, a book by Tony Dungy, and numerous article about John Wooden and Helen Keller. I’ve done Bible studies by Priscilla Shirer and Chuck Swindoll. In all cases, I read what they say and my mind is just in awe of their wisdom. But you’re right about lacking the road map to take what they say and put it into practical life steps.

      When I was working I would seek advice from my manager on my performance. I was always after a better ‘score’ and would specifically ask, what I would have to do to rate one point higher. In all my years, not one manager could advise me on what they expected so I could at least hit their target, and maybe exceed it. I often wonder if there are leaders who would be able and willing to answer that question – maybe like the leaders I chose to pour my heart out to here.

  7. Jane….I have done this in visualization both for myself and my clients. As I read your question at the end the person who comes to mind is my mom….who passed away from cancer 6 years ago. At the time she was diagnosed and took a turn for the worse rather quickly, we were strengthening our relationship. To this day I still find myself “talking” to her and reminiscing about what could have been if she were alive today. I long for the missed opportunity to share with her my life’s journey, my successes and her ability to see who I have become. Although she is not here, I know that when we sit on the bench she is with me in spirit. Thank you for sharing…..

    • Eileen, thank you for reading and taking time to tell your story too. That sounds like a phenomenal way to get people to open up and share their hurts and hopes.