What happens when a community comes together in the name of sustainability, art, and compassion? What happens when, instead of building public structures commemorating war and promoting competition, a public space is created in honor of a sacred value? What happens when you build a monument to compassion in the downtown section of a city? The answer to these questions can be found at the Compassion Corner Earthbench. It is a monument built by and for compassion at the intersection of 3rd and C Streets in downtown Davis, California USA.
May 31st will be the one year anniversary of the inauguration of the Compassion Corner Earthbench. The Earthbench is made from cob and bottle-bricks (plastic 20 oz. bottles stuffed with inorganic waste material). It also includes ceramic pieces made by community members expressing various words and images relating to compassion. The project was collaboratively realized by David H. Breaux, Earthbench builder Brennan Bird, local mosaic artist Mark Rivera, and close to 200 people—volunteers, community members and passers-by—over the course of a few weeks. The City of Davis, its Civic Arts Commission, and property owner AT&T all enthusiastically supported this project because of its central location, community value, and compelling message of unity and compassion. The bench has created one more space within the community for people to connect, hold conversation or reflect upon the concept of compassion. It also inspires us to re-conceive sustainability and how to use our waste as a resource.
The Compassion Corner Earthbench gathers people in the name of compassion in many ways. Children often run up to the bench exploring the ceramic pieces with their eyes and hands. Parents can be heard explaining what the different words and images created from the ceramic pieces mean—such as understanding, listening, empathy, and of course compassion. People come to the bench for contemplation and a moment of quiet time; one woman left a bouquet of flowers at the bench on the anniversary of her brother's passing. Thousands of people have taken photos of themselves, their children, and their families at the bench. It stands as a constant reminder of compassion for those who pass by and see it.
Just yesterday a woman came by the corner expressing her thoughts on compassion, a week after her husband died of lung cancer. He was well known in town for his bike shop that allowed people the space and tools to work on their bikes. She shared how she and her husband would discuss compassion whenever they would pass by the bench, discussing how compassion is a part of our internal truth, yet at times is masqueraded by anger, resentment, and animosity. She expressed gratitude for the monument and now encourages others to think about their concept of compassion.
How would you choose to honor compassion if you built a monument in your community? Do share your thoughts on what it would look like in the comment section below.