Ben's Bells project brings communities together, one kind gesture at a time

- Have you been kind to anyone today? Have you reached out and helped someone or encouraged someone?

Believe it or not, there is a movement underway to bring people together through acts of kindness. It began with tragedy for a Tucson family, but it's ending in an amazing way.

When you lose a child and your heart shatters into a million little pieces, it is hard to imagine how you could ever move forward and create something lasting and beautiful and kind.

Using bells, Jeanette Mare did that in loving memory of her son Ben who died suddenly from a viral infection in 2002. He was almost 3 years old.

As his family grieved with their hearts in the darkest of places, Ben's mom noticed something: the kindness of strangers. But what they were surprised by was how important the kinds of things strangers were doing for them as well. These were people who didn't know what was going on in their lives.

The Ben's Bells Project was created in the Mare's garage where Jeannette would craft small colorful ceramic bells, launching a movement in honor of her son -- a movement with a stunningly simple message: be kind.  

It's all about spreading kindness, building community through the practice of intentional kindness, really taking the effort to be kind in your daily interactions.

What began in Tucson 14 years ago has now spread. There are two Ben's Bells project studios in Tucson, one in Connecticut and the latest one opened in Phoenix last year.

In this 500 square foot building in downtown Phoenix, volunteers help paint and assemble the bells. Some bells are sold in the studio, along with other trinkets spreading the message. Volunteers will take some of the bells and hang them in random spots around the valley, such as bus stops, playgrounds, parks and hiking trails.

One to 200 Ben's Bells are hung around the valley every month. If you see one, you're encouraged to take it. It's yours.

It has a message that says "You found a Ben's Bell. Take it home and remember to spread kindness." 

One of the many volunteers who helps paint, construct and distribute the Ben's Bells, Kathy Kuzela, has made it a family affair.

"Taken my grandchildren with me to hang the bells. They've come in and painted, so it spreads the whole idea of kindness," she said.

Kuzeula agrees that right now, many people are living at a fever pitch, and so many voices seem loud and angry, but she believes this project makes communities closer and stronger, one kind gesture at a time.

"And it can be opening a door or picking up somebody's books that fell or something, but if you stop and think about the nice things you do for people and that people do for you, it becomes a much nicer world."

The Ben's Bells projects are also active in many schools. They bring their program to campuses as they spread their message of how important kindness is.

Online: bensbells.org


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