Once there was a young lad who loved to build bridges. That was all he ever built with his blocks, and when he played outside, he gathered sticks and stones to make all manners of bridges. When he began school, he took every opportunity to read and write about bridges, and his Math and Science projects always focussed on the topic. But the boy’s teachers didn’t mention this love so much as his kindness to others and his ability to get along with all students. One teacher remarked, “He knows how to build bridges between the popular boys and the less popular studious ones.” As the boy grew into a man he never lost his love of bridges. He decided to study them at the university. “But I need to do more than just build bridges,” he told himself. So he joined a fraternity and the chess club. He soon became president of the fraternity, as all saw his ability to bridge disputes, coming up with solutions that pleased all. He also became rather well known for his innovative chess move called the “bridger.” University life ended too soon and the young man had to move from the fraternity and set out to seek his fortune. He moved to the country of his mother’s birth to continue his studies. While there, he often served as an interpreter and a cultural bridge between visitors from his own country and the natives, as he was fluent in both languages. But after a year of study, he decided he wanted to do something else. He still liked bridges but felt the need to make a mark in the world somehow, to help others. So he studied a third language then travelled to a far off land, where the local people had little. He found that in the city there were many rich people but outside the city, working the land, were poor people who worked all day and yet still had not enough to eat. The young man often visited one village that could be reached only by travelling on donkey down a deep ravine and back up the other side. Thus, these people were cut off from the rest of the world, and had only their own meager gardens to feed them. The villagers, however, were artists who wove the most beautiful cloths, using native dyes and hand looms. The young man often mentioned these cloths to the rich people in the city, but they were not interested. “That village is too remote for us,” they said. “We cannot deal with people who live so far away. And besides, how could anyone as poor as they produce a product fine enough for us?” And when the young man mentioned to the villagers that they might visit the city, bringing their cloths, they answered that they had no time, for the trip down and up the ravine took a full day, and it was dangerous to stay overnight in the wilderness. And so the young man continued to be the only one to travel between the city and the village. He found himself staying longer and longer in the village, for the people were kind and honest and he helped them as much as he could. But sometimes, he felt the need to be in a big city, among people more like himself. Then he would take as many of their cloths as he could carry and travel back to the city. There he would sell the cloths and use the money to buy goods for the villagers. But this was difficult, as he could not carry much for such a long distance. One day, as he was climbing the ravine, the young man thought, “If only there were a bridge, I could walk straight across this ravine.” He stopped suddenly. That was it! A bridge. Why hadn’t he thought of that before? As soon as he reached the village, he went to see the village elder to broach his idea. The elder listened carefully. “We had a bridge once,” he said. “It was woven of rope from our grasses. But it broke and many people were killed. It was not worth it.” “I can build a bridge that will not break,” the young man said. “I only need to get materials from the city.” “How can you do that?” the elder asked. “We have no money for materials.” “I will ask the rich people to help,” the young man said. “Why should they help us?” “I will show them how a bridge will help them as well.” “Well, lad. I doubt it will work but try it. Who knows?” So the young man soon returned to the city, where he sought out the rich people he had met. They had no interest at first but a few people who had bought one of the brightly woven cloths said “Then we could buy more of these cloths and make much money selling them to tourists.” ‘Very well” the young man said, “but you must promise to pay a fair price and to honor the villagers as true artists.” The rich people agreed, thinking to themselves that the poor villagers would be content with a few pesetas, while they could sell the cloths for many pesos. They gave the young man materials and some helpers. They even provided him with an expert on bridges to help him design a sturdy bridge. The young man was soon very busy, planning and studying, using all he had learned at the university to now actually build a bridge. At times, he questioned whether he was capable of such a large undertaking, but his mentor proved to be a good man who offered much advice. The young man had no time to visit the village and often wondered how they were doing and what they would think when they saw the bridge. As the bridge began to take form, the villagers on the other side of the ravine showed up to watch. Soon some city people came out too, to see what was happening. The villagers and the city people soon began to wave at each other and shout hellos across the ravine. In the evenings, when the work was done, the villagers would play their instruments and dance, and the city people would dance on their side of the ravine. After many long months, the bridge was finished. The city people planned a great party on their side to honor their young bridge-maker. No mention was made of the villagers. But the young man secretly planned to invite the villagers as well. One night of a full moon, he was the first person to walk across the newly-built bridge. He went to the village elder in the morning and told him of the festivities. “Please come with all your people,” he said. “And bring your music and your finest cloths, that the city people may appreciate you.” The elder agreed. And so on the first day of the summer season, a warm, windless day, the city people marched to the bridge, following the mayor and a grand marching band. When they arrived at the bridge, they saw the villagers approaching on their side, wearing gaily colored shawls and playing their instruments. The two groups continued on to the bridge. Halfway across, the mayor and the village elder met and shook hands. Then the villagers turned around and the city people followed them back to the village. There everyone danced and sang and ate the food the villagers had prepared long into the night. As it was not safe to cross the bridge in the dark, the villagers invited the city people to stay the night. In the morning, the city people bade a fond farewell to the villagers. “Thank you for the wonderful music and food. Come visit us in the city,” they said. “You are welcome. And bring your cloths to sell at market.” They pressed money into the villagers’ hands but the villagers returned it. “Yes, we will come to visit,” they answered. “When we sell our cloths, then we will have money to buy what we need. But we will always return to the village, for this is our home.” Then they turned to the young man. “And you are always welcome in our village,” they said. “For you are now named “Bridgebuilder.” They presented him with a fine cloth on which was woven a design of an intricate bridge. They also presented him with a fine donkey, carrying a beautiful cloth saddle. “You are now one of us.” “And one of us,” the mayor said. “For you are indeed the bridgebuilder. And we and the villagers are, in the end, the same people. Thank you for allowing us to see that.” The young man knew now that he was indeed, and would forever be, a builder of bridges of all kinds. He proudly draped the cloth over his shoulder in the manner of the villagers, mounted his donkey, and led the people back to the city, telling the villagers that he would soon return.
Common Entreaties Commonly Unheeded
Be forthright and truthful, Gentle and loving, Considerate and generous, Thoughtful and obliging.
Praise when appreciation is due, Console in times of grief, Help when there is need for help, Soothe when despair sets in.
Be accepting of those different, Understanding and tolerant, Warm and hospitable, Empathic and compassionate.
These are words to be taken to heart, Thoughts to remember and to live by, Each would be more human for it, And life would be less fraught with strife.
Love spawns kindness, Kindness fosters goodness, Goodness changes mankind And mankind is the better for it.
Thinking can spawn good thoughts, Thoughts can foster laudable action, Action can readily change the world And the world can be the better for it.
The moral is obvious The results inevitable. Change for the better Is ours for the making.
But we can also choose To go our old and hopeless course, A loveless thoughtless way of life, A life of personal strife and national wars.
The challenge is there, But is the will to change?
An Epigram a Day:
Reciprocation in word or deed or attitude is reflex more than reflective response: The accordant tit for tat of social creatures.
Argument guided by reason becomes meaningful discussion, Discussion dominated by emotion becomes empty argument.
Every structure, human or other, is only as strong as it is flexible.
Respect for others is predicated upon respect for the self.