Wesley is reflecting on that day he started falling off the monkey bars at school.
“My leg got stuck,” the nine-year-old says, before adding that the rest of his limbs were being pulled to the ground by gravity.
“It felt like quicksand. Not good.”
Before we can appreciate the end of Wesley’s story, we need to know about the beginning of the bench he’s sitting on.
“We made it with power tools,” Wesley smiles, before imitating the noises each one made. “The electric sander sounds like ghzeeeee!”
Wesley built the bench with his classmates at the James Bay Community School, including Tesekla.
“It was so much fun,” Tesekla smiles, adding that painting the bench like a rainbow was her favourite part.
“I wish we made them every day!”
The project was part of their teacher Alyson King’s plan to create a place for positivity in the school, with a twist.
“Generally, these ‘Buddy Benches’ create places to where [students] can get a friend,” Alyson explains.
While their bench has certainly proven to be a venue for comfort, calm, and connection, there’s more.
“There’s a secret compartment!” Tesekla exclaims.
Alyson says the rainbow bench is all about empowering kids to cultivate kindness
“This compartment contains notes of gratitude to each other,” Alyson says, pointing to a plastic tube hidden underneath the bench.
All the students in the school can take a paper form that’s available available in every classroom, pen something positive about someone else, and deposit the note in that secret compartment underneath the rainbow bench.
“Showing kindness makes me feel really good,” Tesekla says. “And it makes other people feel really good too.”
Alyson empties the secret compartment daily and reads every note.
They range from “I really like your hat” and “thanks for helping me with my math” to “thank you for playing with me when no one wanted to play with me.”
“For these kids to recognize that they have a capacity to help their peers is pretty amazing,” Alyson smiles.
Every Thursday, the principal Marla Margetts shares some of the notes with the whole school during the morning announcements.
“The fact that they have such confidence to just say, ‘Hey, I love you,’ ‘You’re helpful,’ ‘You’re kind,’” Marla smiles. “We can learn a lot from kids.”
That brings us back to Wesley, who says that he was saved from his monkey bars/quicksand predicament by a fellow student.
“Tosh came and pulled me out,” Wesley smiles. “It was really heroic of him and just wanted to thank him.”
So Wesley thanked him with a note full of grateful gold at the end of the rainbow bench.