Bridges are so easy and convenient to use. But, let’s imagine them not being there for a minute.
I grew up in a rural community that was bisected by a creek. It was a deep creek. To get to our half of the community, one had to cross a wooden bridge. The bridge wasn’t very long, but it was very old and the chasm very deep. Many times, I remember hearing my parents, one urging the other, to “hit the treads” as we crossed the bridge. Hitting the treads meant making sure that the tires of the car hit the two planks that ran across the old cross boards of the bridge. I remember with great relief when the county we lived in replaced that rickety bridge with a new, solid bridge. I remember how crossing that bridge moved from deep anxiety for me, every time, to something that I no longer thought about–because it was safe.
That event led me over the years to reflect on the incredible art of bridge building. Even a very small, short bridge like ours that spanned a rural creek could immediately seem like the longest, most impossible journey if it disappeared. The space from one side of the deep creek to the other might as well have been a thousand miles–without the bridge.
Without bridges our possibilities, our dreams, our hopes, our future can become the impossible thing.
I don’t pretend to know much about building literal bridges. I can imagine that where space and water are concerned, a foundation, something solid is required. Once the solid foundation is found, the structures that will suspend the bridge from one side of the chasm to the other will take shape.
Ethically and spiritually building bridges to span chasms of misunderstanding, doubt and fear between people also must require some solid foundation. In Unitarian Universalism, we call that solid foundation the inherent worth and dignity of all beings. When people on both sides of a chasm value the dignity of all beings, bridges are fairly easy to build. When they do not, that becomes the first challenge. Can we move each other toward this essential value: the dignity and worth of one another? When we are struggling to find that solid foundation, things feel scary and uncertain. Once those solid structures are in place supporting the dignity and worth of all beings, we forget that it was ever an issue. It’s something, however, that we should never forget.