“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
― Fred Rogers
During my fist visits to Tucson, ten years ago I read the stories about Ben’s Bells that appear like magic twice a year, hanging by the hundreds around the city in trees and parks, near libraries and hospitals. Every week I read in the paper about a new volunteer “belled” by the community. And after Safeway tragedy struck in January 2011, Ben’s Bells replaced the fear and sadness that held Tucson in it’s thrall with bells. As a parent and as a school librarian, I want to temper the sad topics that the library presents like slavery, prejudice or war and I use Mr. Roger’s tenent “Look for the helpers.” To me, that is what Ben’s Bells is, a movement to spread kindness in our world.
You can’t find a bell, it has to find you. The note of serendipity and the message of the bell is the legacy of a little boy named Ben Packard who is gone too soon. His family relied on the kindness of others to get through their grief. The bells are very human and speak to everyone that finds one or is given one.
This Spring break we visited Tucson for a few days and on the top of my list was taking the boys downtown to the Ben’s Bells studio to paint. I’m not sure what I expected but if I imagined a fantasy workshop of kindness, Ben’s Bells matched my imagination. We sat in a garden that smelled like orange blossoms. A volunteer greeted us and in five minutes we were seated outside to paint. In the warm spring sun we sat at picnic tables with brushes, paint and scores of kindness coins waiting for a design. There is no fee to paint. At the counter I picked up a bumper sticker for my car and bought teachers gifts of smaller painted bells with the message “Be Kind”. The iconic Ben’s Bell I was told, is not for sale. I like it better than way don’t you?
I learned about the Ben’s Bells studio from my friend Becca. She visited the studio with a group of friends as part of the Mom it Forward movement and went back again with an out of town friend. Where would we be without our mom friends to get ideas from? I can’t think of a nicer way to spend spring break. Thanks to Ben’s Bells studios for making community service and the message of kindness tangible for my kids. We will be back again.
Pass it on,