Compassionate York Region’s is Happy About their Happy to Chat Bench!
It is just an ordinary bench that has on it a plaque that along with graphics of two people talking on a bench, there is the text “Sit here if you don’t mind someone stopping to say hello.”, located on the main street in downtown Richmond Hill, Ontario. By sitting on a Happy to Chat bench, people will know that you’re open to a friendly talk.
It is a small gesture to encourage people to make new friends, maybe breaking down the barriers of social isolation and just get people talking.
Benches by design, are compassionate. A bench can represent compassion in several ways. For example, it can provide a place for people to sit and rest, especially those who may be tired or in need of support. A bench is usually sturdy, In this way, the bench can symbolize the idea of offering comfort and care to others. Additionally, the fact that a bench is typically a public space, where people from different backgrounds and walks of life can sit together, can also represent the idea of coming together with compassion and understanding for one another.
Compassionate York Region (CYR) will not take credit for this idea of Happy to Chat benches. They know about Happy to Chat benches in New Brunswick, the UK and Portugal.
CYR received in the fall of 2022 a Community Safety and Wellbeing Plan, Quick Action Grants, an initiative led by the Canadian Mental Health Association, York Region. The grants were for projects led by community members, to increase a sense of belonging, neighbourhood safety, access to mental health.
The CYR team celebrated, and cut the ribbon, on a cold day in December 2022.
They were awarded a second Quick Action Grant to dedicate another bench.
This second bench is at Crosby Park, a special park that was redesigned to be the city’s first fully accessible park. The design and features ensure that everyone, including those with physical challenges can enjoy outdoor recreation. Hence, it is a good fit for the second Happy to Chat benches.
Compassionate York Region/Compassionate Richmond Hill is working with the city, businesses, organizations and individuals to encourage the placement of other Happy to Chat benches, to create conversations to cultivate compassion. This is what we foresee/4C