Downtown Tucson is not a thriving community. Much of the commerce one would expect to see in a central business district has left for malls outside the downtown core. Those malls seem to be everywhere, one after the other, replicating themselves again and again on the streets and avenues that lead to the suburbs. All of that is a shame, because downtown Tucson is not especially unattractive.
In a slightly more depressed part of the downtown of Tucson is a small storefront belonging to Ben's Bells. It offers a small studio and store, staffed by energetic young people.
Ben's Bells came about after a three year old named Ben fell ill on March 29, 2002. It seemed to be a cough and cold, but it was much worse and Ben passed away, all too suddenly and all too soon. His parents were devastated. They tried a variety of coping strategies and eventually designed and made bells in their backyard studio with friends. It was good to share a common goal, talk and reflect upon their grief.
Eventually they made hundreds of bells, and on the first anniversary of their little boy's death, they hung those hundreds of Ben's Bells randomly in Tucson, in trees, along bike paths and in parks, always with a handwritten note saying simply to take the bell home and pass on the kindness.
The effect on the community was amazing. People finding the bells had stories to tell of their own, about grief and healing and hope. Ultimately hundreds of people of all ages were crafting Ben's Bells. The story spread across America. It is a story told in the loving memory of one little boy. It symbolizes kindness and its power in healing, and in the sense of community created, both in making and giving the bells, and in finding them too.
Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2013.