Benedict’s Bench: welcoming others

At this time of year we all think about hospitality. For many of us, that leads to concentration on the food and drink we provide rather than the quality of attention we give others. A letter from one of our Associates has reminded us what welcoming others is all about, so, with her permission, I am going to quote part of it today.

When I became an Associate, you urged me to consider hospitality, Benedictine hospitality. This came as something of a challenge to an introvert living on a track between fields, outside a very small, workaday village. Responding to the challenge, I dragged a wooden bench, ‘Benedict’s Bench’, out onto a small patch of land beside the field of cattle opposite my house . . . .

I sat on the bench, often with a cup of tea, whenever it was time for me to water the cattle . . .Watering cattle is one of those wonderful tasks that requires one to be present but only actually doing something, i.e. changing the hoselines, for a few minutes in the hour. It makes for good prayer time.

The first thing that happened was that I came to know and love the cows. The second that people started to drop by, to stop on their walks, to collect their post at watering time, to simply sit with their own cup of tea and enjoy the peace.

The bench changed much. Gradually I came to know [the local] people far, far better. A teenager with girlfriend problems turned up for an evening or two, another with exam results and a career choice looming. Mothers sat down and let their children play while we just sat together. Our cattle farmer arrived each morning, and when it wasn’t harvest, stayed on drinking tea.

Benedict’s Bench has had an extraordinary effect on me and this tiny community. We are organising a Christmas Dog Show in the village. (N.B. Bro Duncan – outdoor, with classes and agility runs for everyone) and despite the sensible advice to take in garden furniture over winter, the bench will stay. It has opened hearts.

The writer goes on to describe cattle-home, when this year the bench was joined by several tables and chairs, a side of beef, ham sandwiches, cake, sloe gin and all the accoutrements of a country feast. It is a heart-warming story but it begins with one small step, a gesture of faith and trust. P. has taught us something important about how to welcome others, not merely into our space but into our lives.

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4 thoughts on “Benedict’s Bench: welcoming others”

  1. Concordia res parvae crescent.
    When I was a boy public benches had a similar effect and the old met the young on these benches and stories were told.
    Well done P. and thank you D.Catherine for sharing that with us.

  2. Heart-warming insight into the meaning and practice of Benedictine hospitality, and to its efficacy.

    Perhaps with the Lord’s help and with prayer I might establish a “Benedict’s Bench” of the heart, a committed attitude of acceptance and welcome. Perhaps might we all.

    And what might the world become if we did?

    With gratitude to P., and to S. Catherine, for the kindness of your sharing.

  3. Thank you so much for that lovely image of the bench beside the cattle. Cattle are themselves, very centred beings and I have no doubt they contributed to the attraction of the bench. I wish I could join your correspondent on that bench some evening.

  4. This was the one story on the that warmed my heart today. Thank you for telling it. And thank God for that brave introvert (he will always be one… possibly that is precisely why he found friends on a bench in the middle of nowhere on his bench) who put out that piece of carpentry in one bold and (only apparently) self-defying move.
    Benedict’s bench, indeed. Even for us virtual passers-by.

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