Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Building for Tomorrow's Travelers

One of my favorite poems, The Bridge Builder, has stuck with me since I read it to my oldest many, many years ago. I read it then as the character of the young traveler seeking a mentor, and now, as the main character. I am touched by the generosity of spirit of the old man, and hope to find some way to emulate it.
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And, increasingly, I am also grateful for the pilgrims that walk the lone highway. I feel the pain in their feet as my own, the creak of their backs, the pain in their hands. It provides a hint at a future when I will understand even better the sacrifice they have made.

The Bridge Builder

An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”
Source: Father: An Anthology of Verse (EP Dutton & Company, 1931)

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