If you happened upon a diary tied to a bench with an invitation to write anything and the understanding that anyone can read your anonymous entry, what would you write?
On a hot June day in Atlanta, GA, I decided to find out by tying four pink diaries to benches around the city and inviting my neighbors to write in them. Since that day, I have collected over 90 entries written on a wide range of subjects by people of all ages. I call the project Bench Diary.
When I was in high school, I found my fourth grade journal buried amongst other childhood memorabilia. The journal provided my friends and me with endless entertainment and sparked my fascination with diaries. I love the fearlessness and honesty that pours out of us when we write in diaries. I hope to inspire that fearlessness in people who write Bench Diary entries and in people who read those entries.
Much to my delight, all four diaries I put out the first day contained wonderful entries. One person told a story of resorting to stripping for money, while a couple wrote an Exquisite Corpse-style poem about sitting in the park. I was totally hooked after that first day and wanted to learn much more about my neighbors.
On Bench Diary days, I set out in the morning with several diaries, a ball of string, scissors, pens and my phone so I can share each diary’s location on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Returning in the evening to retrieve each diary is a thrill, as I never know what to expect. The diary could be missing, or someone could be in the process of writing when I arrive. The diary could even be urinated on, as was the case with a diary I tied to a picnic table at a skate park. That certainly did not stop me from picking it up by a dry corner and tossing it in my trunk.
The most common type of entry so far has been one sharing advice or wisdom.
People often write about the specific place or time.
Or they share a story.
Here is a story from the urine-soaked diary.
Though Bench Diary is anonymous, I do ask people to share their age. This entry was written by a 92-year-old.
Entries from children are my favorite entries to read.
I have been blown away by what my neighbors have chosen to share with complete strangers, and I cannot help but wonder what people in other cities and countries have to share. Eventually, I hope to establish a network of people all over the world who want to participate in the project by putting out Bench Diaries in their cities and submitting the entries they collect. We could build an amazing collection of entries spanning time, geography, culture and language.
If you are interested in getting involved with the project by putting out Bench Diaries in your city, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also get involved by following the project at benchdiary.com and on Instagram and Twitter by following @benchdiary and by liking Bench Diary on Facebook.
Check out my PechaKucha presentation on Bench Diary too.
We're growing the community of people sharing creative solutions for living well and doing good, and want you to be a part of it. If you have an insight, experience, idea, or project you want to share with the GOOD Community and need more space to tell your story than posting a link on good.is allows, email us at email@example.com.