“Once upon a time, two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side-by-side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed, without a hitch. It all began with a small misunderstanding, and it grew into a major difference, and finally, it exploded into an exchange of bitter words, followed by weeks of silence.
One morning, there was a knock on John’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox.
“I’m looking for a few days’ work,” he said. “Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there I could help with? Could I help you?”
“Yes,” said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbor. In fact, it’s my younger brother! Last week, there was a quarrel between us. He recently took his bulldozer to the riverbank, and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll do him one better. See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a fence. An 8-foot fence -so I won’t need to see his place, or his face, anymore.”
The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails, and the post-hole digger, and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”
The older brother had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day – measuring, sawing, and nailing. About sunset, when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job.
The farmer’s eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge…a bridge that stretched from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work, with handrails, and all!
And, the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming toward them, his hand outstretched… “You are quite a fellow to build this bridge, after all I’ve said and done.”
The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other’s hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox onto his shoulder. “No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you,” said the older brother.
“I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, “but I have many more bridges to build. Just remember this.”
Doesn’t this story challenge you to ask yourself, “AM I BUILDING BRIDGES OR FENCES? “It is actually much easier as humans to build fences. You know, when that friend comes and tells you how the other friend/family member did all sorts ‘evil’ against him/her and the bitterness ends up spilling on you.Before you know it,you are part of the dispute,not as an arbitrator but actually drifting them further apart. Instead of being the one to speak words of love and peace, you are the one ‘adding salt to the wound’, by speaking ill of the other person and encouraging conflict hence becoming the fence instead of the bridge.
I just love how the carpenter puts it,”I have many more bridges to build. “How I wish we would all have that desire to build bridges in the lives of those around us. What bridge have you built within the past one year? Remember, your career doesn’t matter but how much you touch the lives of people as you work. Your words don’t matter, if they are not uplifting to the other person. Make it you intention to build that bridge.
By Mercy Karumba