San Diegans may have noticed a few more smiles around local parks this week. At seven locations across the city, “Happy Benches” appeared out of the blue: park benches marked with posters inviting people to sit and visit with one another.
The message on the posters was sweet and simple: “The Happy Bench - Sit here if you don’t mind someone stopping by and saying hi!”
The woman behind the Happy Benches, Kelly Williams, began her kindness campaign, Spread A Little Sunshine, four years ago in her hometown in the United Kingdom.
While preparing for a vacation to the U.S. this month, she decided to spread her message of happiness, kindness, and human connection across the pond.
Armed with 200 Happy Bench posters and a contagiously positive attitude, Williams began her journey from San Diego to San Francisco this week, turning plain benches into Happy Benches along the way.
Williams hopes the benches will not only spread a little cheer, but help combat loneliness and encourage people to talk to one another.
“Loneliness is such a big, big problem,” Williams told NBC 7 Friday. “The Happy Bench is to say to people: 'It’s a good thing to communicate with other people, to stop and say hi and have a real conversation with a real person.'”
The seven San Diego Happy Benches include locations at Coronado and Ocean Beach. Williams wants San Diegans hunt for the Happy Benches and find all seven of them with the help of clues Williams posts on her Instagram, @the_happy_bench.
“I hope even just the poster will make you smile,” said Williams. “If people sit on these Happy Benches and have a conversation with someone new, that’s just a beautiful bonus.”
Williams wants the Happy Benches to spread as far as possible, and not just end with the posters she herself puts up.
Anyone, anywhere, can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to get their own Happy Bench poster to print and put on a bench in their own city.
As Williams put it: “Anywhere in the world, anyone can get happy on a happy bench!”