Over a lifetime, we each learn the stories of where we fit and don’t fit, and who are our good and bad guys. Sadly, at least in the eyes of God, for most of us, it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the trap of building walls instead of bridges.
We are trapped in the “me-ism” of seeing ourselves as the center of all life and meaning…. And all else is “other.”
I say sadly because God’s vision is that we each belong to each other.
Fortunately, our Vincentian family icons, Vincent and Louise, Fredrick, Elizabeth Ann Seton and many others, were bridge builders. They embodied a deep conviction that we all belong to God who loves us each… in spite of differences.
Jesus – the ultimate bridge builder
Jesus was always building bridges, reaching across the boundaries.
Just look at the kind of people Jesus associated with…
- ‘the immoral’ (prostitutes and sinners)
- ‘the marginalized’ (lepers and sick people)
- heretics’ (Samaritans and pagans)
- collaborators’ (publicans and soldiers)
- ‘the weak’ and ‘the poor’ (who have neither power nor knowledge)
Jesus was the ultimate bridge builder. The Word became flesh!” He bridged the greatest gap we can imagine… the gap between God and humanity. He entered into our world. He became one of us.
We did not earn God’s love. Remember, God reached out to us and continues to reach out to us even when we are furthest away.
“You must decide!”
Pope Francis reminds us we must decide whether we will be bridge builders or builders of walls. He writes,
- “Peace builds bridges, whereas hatred is the builder of walls. You must decide, in life: either I will make bridges or I will make walls.
- Walls divide and hatred grows: when there is division, hatred grows. Bridges unite, and when there is a bridge hatred can go away, because I can hear the other and speak with the other.
- When you shake the hand of a friend, of a person, you make a human bridge. You make a bridge. Instead, when you strike someone, when you insult another person, you build a wall. Hatred always grows with walls.
- At times, it may happen that you want to make a bridge and you offer your hand, but the other party does not take it; these are the humiliations that we must suffer in life in order to do good.
- But always make bridges. And you have come here: you were stopped and sent home, then you took a risk on the bridge to try again: this is the right attitude, always. Is there a difficulty that prevents me from doing something?
- Go back and then go ahead, return and move on. This is what we must do: make bridges. Do not fall to the ground, do not say, ‘Oh, I can’t’, no: always look for a way of building bridges. You are there, with your hands, make bridges, all of you! Take each other by the hand. I want to see lots of human bridges. … This is the plan for life: make bridges, human bridges.”
It is not rocket science
Begin with simple words!
Here are some simple thought-starters we can use to build bridges in our daily encounters. Jeff Bridges’ offers a reflection in Forbes Magazine: 15 Phrases That Build Bridges Between People. Consider sprinkling these phrases into your daily conversations:
- Thank You
- I Don’t Know
- Tell Me More.
- What I Hear You Saying Is
- I Understand
Food for thought
- Is building bridges a bridge too far for me?
- With whom have I built a bridge today? Last week? Last month?
Click below for an early audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk
As most of the images online (and certainly in our heads) convey, bridges are elaborate structures that took months (or years) to construct and continually need monitoring/repair. This morning, I was reminded of a simple wooden bridge that crossed a very small creek on my brother’s property. True, over time, it also needed maintenance and eventually replacement, but it serves very well as an effective means of connection.
When considering ‘bridges,’ I need to change my mindset from those elaborate municipal undertakings to the few rough logs lashed together to make simple bridges that I need in my life.
As an afterthought, I think Pope Francis doesn’t travel the roads in the US as we do. More times than not, we don’t encounter ‘walls’ as much as we do ‘Road Closed, Follow Detour.’ Some of those detours are frustrating, but often lead to interesting adventures and a newer perspective on our “routine.” It’s easy to let the frustration win out. I need to make the adjustments to transform those frustrations into opportunities.
Peace be with you.