There are two bridges crossing the Bow in our location, one for vehicles going east and one for those going west. The east bound bridge was the original. When it was first built it was designed for two-way traffic. Then a few years ago, the bridge was twinned, making the original bridge for eastbound traffic only, and the new one for those heading west. For the past year, the east bound bridge, the original one, has been under construction. The old bridge has been removed, and sometime in the next year or two, a new one will take its place. Meanwhile, the westbound bridge is working overtime to allow traffic to flow in both directions. As with all road construction projects, there is pain involved for commuters. The speed limit is diminished, the lanes are narrow, and alas, the drivers have not become any more patient.
Mostly, this project provides us with minimal disruption. If I happen to have to use it right at the peak of the rush, in either the morning or evening, I can figure on adding a few minutes to my trip. Mostly, I’m unaffected, except on the days when I’ve had Ben and Andy here for a day of joy. On those days, no matter how hard I try to plan, we manage to just get everyone out the door and buckled in, only to find we are driving down the on-ramp, trying to merge, just as the rest of the city is trying to get home after a long workday.
Normally, Jim and I would sigh. Perhaps even complain. We might wonder aloud, ‘How long does it take to build a bridge?!’ Yet on these days, these joy-days, we are lucky to be exposed to a new perspective.
Ben LOVES vehicles. He loves them. He loves every single kind of vehicle. He makes no judgement about brand, or status, or cost. He simply appreciates each of them. And so, if Ben is in the car when we start down the ramp onto the backed-up highway, while our instinct is to moan, his is to take delight in how many wonderful, different vehicles he notices. A flatbed carrying an ambulance?! You don’t see that everyday! A jeep with the wheel on the back!? Perfection!
When Ben is in the car, we fill our time with noticing and pointing out interesting vehicles. When he is not with me, I’ve begun to enjoy not only seeing interesting vehicles that I might tell him about, ones I’d never had given a second thought about before, but I also now find myself thinking about bridge building. Not just the concrete and rebar-enforced type of bridges, but all the kinds of bridges we build, and cross, and cross back, and sometimes destroy, in our lives.
When I first began to think of bridge-building in this new way, I conjectured the pandemic hasn’t been a time that has encouraged bridge building. We’ve each found ourselves on islands, trying to figure out how to keep ourselves and our families safe. If we didn’t completely destroy the bridges leading to and from ourselves, most of us figured out how to at least pull up the drawbridge and keep it up for some time.
As I let that thought sink in, knowing isolation is not good for we humans, I worried I might have carelessly wasted precious years of my life, having my drawbridges fixed in the up position. But I also realized that while my people drawbridges (those old familiar well-worn paths) may have been up for awhile, I’ve built and crossed many, many new bridges during this time.
Bridges are built every time we try a new activity or learn a new skill. Bridges are built when we have new thoughts. They are built when we meet someone new. They are built when we try a new style or attempt a new project. They are built when we call, text or email a friend or colleague, or a not-yet-friend or colleague. They are built when we hike a new trail, or hike with new people. They are built when we take a new course. Or wave at our neighbour. Or have days of joy with our grandsons. They are built when we do something kind for someone else with no motive of getting something in return. Or when we overlook an imperfection. All these things lead us to new, often beautiful, places, accessed only by crossing bridges. Sometimes we build the flimsiest of bridges to start. We lay a two-by-four, or log over the chasm, balance our way across and check to see if what was on the other side was as enticing as we had thought it had looked from our vantage point. If it turns out we love what we see, we cross more and more often, eventually building a sturdy bridge. Before long, we don’t even think about balancing as we go, we travel sure-footed and with confidence.
Sometimes what we check out doesn’t match our dream or our need. In those cases, we return to the original side, either leaving the bridge in place for someone else to use as we move on, or tearing it down. Either way, we grow for having crossed it at all.
We have endless opportunities to build bridges in our lives. The building of them can be slow and often cause disruption to the familiar pattern of our life. And yet, the finished project, the smooth travel across the newly constructed bridge, leads to yet more possible bridges and holds endless potential gifts.
And so, it has come to pass, I’ve taken a whole new view toward this bridge building project near my home. Where I once saw this bridge building as a nuisance, I now appreciate its value. I enjoy my leisurely trips across it. I am excited to discover the unconsidered possibility on the other side.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What bridge are you building?’
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. She has expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations and for conducting leadership reviews. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to build bridges.