Building Bridges

I’ve been thinking a lot about bridges. The schisms in this country seem to only get wider. Political storms intensify in parallel with extreme storms that our changing climate generates. Echoes of hopelessness in both instances bounce off canyon walls as the dire and increasingly hopeless conditions show no signs of abatement.

The latest foul suggestion of “liberal genocide” implies the answer to our differences is to kill those who disagree with you. Not a very pro-life sentiment, if you ask me. But you didn’t. And perhaps that is the problem. Still I can’t believe that the vast majority of those on the other side of the opinion world genuinely have a death wish for the rest of us. But the gap spreads. The rift grows. How do we turn the tide?

We desperately need a bridge or two across the raging storm current beneath.

What do I know about bridges?

Their purpose is to aid travel across chasms, canyons, or river channels.

They come in many sizes

and many different designs.

They can be a simple as a fallen log spanning a water-filled gully, or so complex they take years to build.

They can be artistic treasures, offering the best of humankind,

and are often sought by artists or photographers as worthy subjects.

Some draw tourists to unique examples of beauty merged with utility.

Bridges can be found almost anywhere.

They are built with the future in mind, to assist the travel of those who follow the bridge makers.

Sadly, bridges are often targeted for destruction during warfare.

Model of the A-bomb detonation found in the Hiroshima museum. The target was believed to be a t-shaped bridge.

But some are designed with strength enough to withstand unspeakable devastation.

The t-shaped bridge today. Unlike most of the rest of the city, it was not destroyed by the atomic bomb.

Others succumb to heavy flooding and raging water.

But they can be re-built. Some bridges have been re-built with pride multiple times by different generations. They endure for centuries.

Construction of bridges would be most efficient if started from both sides to meet in the middle. But they can be built from one side alone.

Many chasms are born when a trickle of rainwater starts to flow in a miniscule crack. When the rift is deep enough, travel across it is impossible.

But the stones to build a bridge often come from the same geologic formation on opposite sides, and the planks come from sister trees.

Though the views are mirrored from either side,

 

a traveler sees the world


 

differently from the middle of a bridge.

 

 

 

With scant leadership from our Capitol, the healing process may fall to us, the people. We need a few bridges to cross the growing chasms in our political and social landscapes.

Stone by stone.

Pile by pile.

Time’s wasting. Let’s get started.

 

 

 

 

The Consideration Project

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I’ve been thinking about my mother a lot lately.  Last week marked a full decade since we celebrated her last birthday with her.  It’s only natural she has been in my thoughts.   For our appreciation of all the finer things in life, my sisters and I have Mother to thank.  She loved music, literature, and the finer aspects of our culture fostered through the arts.  Education was a priority for her.  Based on her own experience, continuing education was the key to rise above desperation and hardship.  She fostered within each of her daughters the value of knowledge, hard work, and a sense of justice and opportunity for those down on their luck.  She was also pretty hard-nosed about second chances if one failed to recognize the gift of a first chance.  But she remained generous to others all her days.

Actively involved in our childhood education, Mother assigned me the first big project I recall.  She became upset by the daily arguing of her three daughters.  To combat the incessant cacophony of our constant bickering, she assigned each of us to do a “Consideration Project.”  We were to consider each other’s feelings and viewpoints before we erupted into a shouting match.  There was paperwork involved.  By the due date, I had written a journal of thoughts, choices, and conclusions.  This project became a major activity for me. Though I don’t have a copy of my final report, I learned a great deal from the activity.  I believe this was the first major writing project assigned in my school years.  It was Mother who assigned it, and I still remember the “Consideration Project.”

I can draw parallels to lessons recorded in the gospel books of the Bible.  Jesus instructed, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”  (Matt. 5:41)  “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from anyone who takes away your coat, do not withhold even your shirt.”  (Luke 6:29)  In other words, Jesus also encouraged his followers to be considerate of others.

Is there anything more difficult to master about life?  My natural response toward someone who has acted harshly against me is to retaliate in kind.  Yet, if I stop a moment and give consideration to the other, I might imagine a bit of bad news they may be facing, a hardship in their family, or an argument they may have had with the most important person in their life.  Even though a person may treat me unfairly, it helps no one if I pass that injustice along.  Not even me.

There have been times after I finish a service job when I am offered payment with a check that bounces.  I fretted.  I worried.  I fretted some more.  But when, in my heart, I made a gift to the person of my work, my distress was instantly relieved.  Jesus’ instructions for giving beyond expectations were spoken not to benefit those who wrong me, but to lift the load of hatred and resentment from my own heart.  Freedom and contentment were my immediate rewards.

Jesus also said, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.”  (Matt. 7:1)  How can I possibly know all the details of another person’s choices?  I can’t.  Granted, I have never been on the receiving end of a violent criminal act.  I have never faced the loss of everything I hold dear at the spiteful actions of others.  I honestly don’t know how I would react in those cases.  But I do know that I can choose my actions carefully today.  I have the power to affect my own life and future, and I can support others who face unknown crises without judging them from my own perspective.

It seems that our nation is in need of a consideration project.  Diversity has always been one of the strengths of our country.  We defend the right of others to live as their hearts dictate, as long as their choices hurt no one.  The bitterness and rancor we see today in our nation gets us nowhere in the long run.  The art of politics should be the art of compromise, striking a deal somewhere in the middle that the majority of people can embrace.   We defend the rights of those who have few resources.   We defend our diversity.

Extremists who deny compromise and refuse action of any sort unless it’s what they want only hurt our country.  There should be no room for a “My-way-or-the-highway” attitude.  How do we find common ground with folks who will not listen to differing views?  On a national scale, we seem to lack something basic.  Something like . . . consideration.

Mother, we need your “Consideration Project.”  I suspect that if we try, we could find some common ground between the blue and the red.  If we consider the views and thoughts of those who differ from us, we might find we share many things.  We love our children.  We revere the life and opportunities we’ve had.  We want others to share similar good fortunes.  We worry about what the future holds.  The basics of humanity exist in the hearts of people regardless of their political persuasions.  If we listened considerately to each other, we might find we share a lot.  Our states are not totally red nor blue, just as our own hearts are not absolutely conservative or liberal.  We are closer to various shades of purple than perfectly red or perfectly blue.  Purple should be the color of our future as we strive to find commonalities in our concerns.

How about a little consideration for each other?  I’m ready.  Are you?