During the past couple weeks, Nancy and I have been basing out of my parents’ home in rural Pennsylvania. The “big excitement” has been the construction of a bridge over a small stream that runs through their property. Following an extended period of planning, construction has been going in earnest for the past month. Every day a team of men arrive. We’ve watched them operate a fleet of heavy equipment to re-channel the stream, remove the old bridge and tons of the surrounding earth, pour the concrete foundation, and install the seven pieces that make up the new bridge. It appears that the project is finally drawing toward completion.
I have used “building bridges” as a metaphor for relational development. In that context, I think of building a bridge as reaching out to another person or group with the intent to find shared interests that can lead to increased communication and cooperation. A “bridge” is a structure that enables two people to connect across relational obstacles such as politics, economic standing, race, religion, etc.
What I have not previously considered is how much effort it takes to build a bridge. The cost of building the small bridge in front of my parents’ property is large. Some days I counted close to twenty men, a dozen large machines, and tons of materials. All that does not come cheaply!
It seems to me that the cost of building a physical bridge makes the relational metaphor even better. To effectively reach out and initiate a relationship with someone dissimilar to you requires a significant investment. We must put aside assumptions and values that we hold deeply and open our minds to new ones. That is not easy, but the result is well worth the cost!