Jim and I decided to make the trip to see it this week. It’s just over a two-hour drive from our home. We’re fortunate. Right from the outset, the drive is spectacular, heading us west toward our majestic Rockies. As we drove past Banff, we drove under the first of several animal corridors. From a driver’s vantage point, these are nothing more than concrete bridges, shaped like semi-circles. From the top, however, what the animals see are wide grass, plant and tree covered paths; bridges, allowing the safe passage of all kinds of animals from one side of the Trans Canada highway to the other.
These animal corridors were first imagined, and built, over twenty-five years ago. At the time, I remember wondering if they would be successful. How, I pondered, would the animals figure out this was a more desirable way to cross the highway? They, of course, didn’t read, and couldn’t know the statistics about how many animals had been killed or injured while trying to cross.
It didn’t take long. Bear, elk, moose, deer, fox, wolves, coyotes and cougars, soon all found their way. It turns out, if you build it, they will come. And as predicted, the loss of life to both animals and humans has been drastically reduced.
How many of us, I wondered as we drove along, can spot the bridges, natural or human made, placed right in front of us to ease our journey, keep us safe, join us with new friends, or forward us in our pursuits? How many of us appreciate the bridges extended to us by others? How many of us, sometimes lack the courage to cross the bridges awaiting us? And how many of us, already standing on the other side of the bridge, fail to call out to invite others to cross?
I’ve found myself in all these situations. There have been times in my professional life, when I’ve had all the skills and experience needed to apply for a different, sometimes more challenging, job. I’ve had times when I’ve been personally invited to apply for the job. On a few occasions, when I’ve not applied, I’ve even been reached out to, to ask if my application had somehow gone missing. In some of those instances, I made the choice to not cross the bridge, not to apply, because it was not the right bridge for my family. But in other cases, I can clearly see now, I either didn’t recognize the bridge or I was afraid to cross it. I could see where I was, and I could see the other side, but I did not see that I had all the skill I needed to step up on the bridge and cross it.
I’ve worked with hundreds of people, some individually, some as part of groups, some full organizations, who have done this same thing. They have worked incredibly hard to hone skills, gather expertise, garner respect, and place themselves in a position of growth, only to either miss seeing, or being too fearful to cross the bridge right in front of them.
Bridges are connectors. They connect who we are now, to who we might become. They connect us to others who might enrich our lives. They connect us to new ideas, and interests, and passions. When I chose not to cross bridges, I missed out on connections.
The trouble is bridges sometimes don’t look like bridges.
Sometimes they look like hard work. Sometimes they look very inconvenient. Sometimes they look overwhelming. Sometimes they look frightening. But sometimes they look different than that. Like animal corridors, bridges can be disguised. They can appear as a phone call inviting us to go somewhere. Sometimes they look like an advertisement for a new activity we might like to join. Sometimes they look like the smile of a stranger. Sometimes they look like a kind comment on a social media post. Some bridges look like a comment from a friend, ‘Oh, I love the hat you made. I wish I knew how to knit.’ Some look like an empty spot on the dance floor, waiting to be filled. Some are filled with words and actions, others are quiet.
The other trouble is, they can be sneaky little things; sometimes while we hum and haw, bridges disappear.
When we are invited to cross a bridge, it is most often because others want a connection with us. When we invite others to cross a bridge, it is because we desire a connection with them. When we ignore bridges or let our little voices of doubt stop us from crossing, we miss opportunities.
When Jim and I arrived home from our visit to the Natural Bridge, our mail was waiting for us. In it was a late Christmas note from my friend Theresa. Theresa and I have families at different stages. Finding time to connect isn’t always easy, but we always love our time together. She ended the note with, ‘When the weather warms, I’d love to join you on a Tuesday Trek’.
I’ll cross that bridge.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What bridge is waiting to be crossed?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups and has expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to find out how build and cross bridges.