James Warren was walking in his Denver neighborhood when something gave him pause. “A woman was waiting for the bus, sitting in the dirt. And I was like, ‘Oh man, that sucks.’ That’s not dignified at all. We need to be doing better by our fellow city members,” Warren told CBS News. “And so, I thought, ‘I could do something about that, I can build a bench.'” That moment led him on a mission to help his community.
Warren found some scrap wood, thanks to construction sites in his neighborhood with piles of discarded wood. And, because his dad builds homes, he grew up around tools — he knew he had the basic skills needed to build a bench.
He built one at the beginning of the year and put it back at that bus stop where he first got the idea. Since then, he’s built eight custom benches and has placed them at bus stops around the area.
Each bench looks different, since he’s using scrap wood for all of them. “I just kind of let the wood speak to me,” he said. Each one takes a few hours to build, and Warren hand delivers them to bus stops without sitting areas.
“I have not asked the city yet whether I’m allowed to do this … Until they stop me, I’ll just keep doing it, I guess,” he said.
While each bench is unique, James makes sure to burn or stencil in the same message on all of them: “Be kind.”
“Sometimes it’s difficult to really make a change in the world around us, or it can feel really difficult to make a change in the world around us. But the truth is, anyone can be kind. And by being kind, you can make a difference in the world around you. And that difference matters a lot. So, maybe just a little reminder to people,” he said.
He’s heard from several people in the community – those who use the benches and those who have been inspired by them. “What’s been really cool is seeing other people online building their own benches or even just taking chairs they were going to throw out or that somebody else was throwing out and putting them by bus stops instead of letting them go to landfill,” Warren said.
He says when people tell him the benches inspire him, it inspires him right back to keep doing what he’s doing. “Because it’s cool, it’s no longer just one dude doing something for his neighborhood, it’s dudes and dudettes all over the community doing things for their neighborhoods. So, it’s really inspiring to see that.”
Warren said he hopes the benches continue to inspire — and perhaps expand to other cities.