Eleven weeks doesn’t sound like a long time unless you’re sitting in traffic.
I’m sure that’s how most of us felt waiting for the new bridge to go up. How many of us spiritually enlightened folks who center peace and love in our hearts become rabid fundamentalists with the fires of hell on our side when waiting in traffic. To watch another car slide up past us and then demand to cut in ahead of the patient folk. If you ever wanted to know how spiritually mature you are, try being stuck in traffic five days a week twice a day for hours at a time.
Well, the spiritual test is over. The bridge is done. It was fascinating to watch how they built this bridge. When contemplating the phrase “All My Relatives,” it made me think of how we could build bridges to others we don’t know.
First, the supports had to go in on both sides. While some had to be longer on one side than the other, they had to even out at the top. Perhaps when we are building bridges, there does not have to be shared beliefs but some common communication practices that support the conversation like listening more than talking. Willing to see it from another person’s perspective – not to accept or reject, but to just try out and see how it looks.
Then there was some scaffolding and rebar laid down over the river, and on the banks, dirt was moved and filled in. So maybe we need not be stuck on our point of view, but move our dirt around a little bit to meet the other person. To dig deep and know our own story.
After that, the surface is ready for concrete, and there are pours. Lots and lots of concrete pours. It’s poured on and smoothed out over and over until there is a level surface. Not perfectly smooth, mind you – otherwise, cars would slide off the bridge!
But good enough. Perhaps when we meet one another and try to build a bridge, we genuinely speak from the heart, and to hear the other person’s heart. Pour over it again. And again and again and again until there is a shared surface. Not something perfect by any means, we still need traction – but good enough. A shared reality for all of our hearts to move through.
Before cars could move on the bridge though, it had to be made safe. Barriers put up. Markings painted down. Clear boundaries, so each driver knows where to turn, stop, and respect other drivers. Lights installed so everyone could see.
For productive conversations and relationships between people, we also need safety. We need to see what’s going to happen next, so it’s predictable. We need to know where each other’s boundaries are so we don’t crash into one another. We need it to be safe so we can share our deep feelings without backlash.
That’s what I saw when they built the bridge. Supports. Scaffolding. Earthmoving. Concrete poured and roughly smoothed over and over. And all of it done with safety in mind.
And maybe that’s how we can build bridges to each other. Agree to essential supports, yet not try to control the outcome. Willingness to move around our dirt and lay down some scaffolding. Listening more than speaking until eventually, the two sides could meet. Not being perfect, acknowledging mistakes to give us traction to move together, and then explicitly asking for and respecting boundaries of others. Sharing the same surface mans coming to a shared reality.
It’s a lot of work to build bridges, I think. In the end, it can move thousands of people and help them get where they need to go.