Building Bridges, not Burning Them

When I graduated from Dixie State College a very influential guy named Thomas S. Monson spoke at the commencement ceremony. He based his remarks on the poem by Will Allen Dromgoole entitled “The Bridge Builder.” This poem, and the talk that it inspired, are powerful. It sheds a beautiful light on service-based leadership and illustrates the importance building bridges instead of burning them. Here it is for your reading pleasure:

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-
That sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned, when he reached the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting strength in building here.
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way.
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build you the bridge at the eventide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head.
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been 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 the bridge for him.”

-WILL ALLEN DROMGOOLE

Advertisements

One thought on “Building Bridges, not Burning Them

  1. In my leadership course during my MBA, the professor shared a poem that is quite unlike the one you reference, but might also be of value for the fair-haired youth to consider as he goes about his merry way. Here it is:

    One day, through the primeval wood,
    A calf walked home, as good calves should;
    But made a trail all bent askew,
    A crooked trail, as all calves do.

    Since then three hundred years have fled,
    And, I infer, the calf is dead.
    But still he left behind his trail,
    And thereby hangs my moral tale.

    The trail was taken up next day
    By a lone dog that passed that way;
    And then a wise bellwether sheep
    Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep,
    And drew the flock behind him, too,
    As good bellwethers always do.

    And from that day, o’er hill and glade,
    Through those old woods a path was made,
    And many men wound in and out,
    And dodged and turned and bent about,
    And uttered words of righteous wrath
    Because ’twas such a crooked path;
    But still they followed — do not laugh —
    The first migrations of that calf,
    And through this winding wood-way stalked
    Because he wobbled when he walked.

    This forest path became a lane,
    That bent, and turned, and turned again.
    This crooked lane became a road,
    Where many a poor horse with his load
    Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
    And traveled some three miles in one.
    And thus a century and a half
    They trod the footsteps of that calf.

    The years passed on in swiftness fleet.
    The road became a village street,
    And this, before men were aware,
    A city’s crowded thoroughfare,
    And soon the central street was this
    Of a renowned metropolis;
    And men two centuries and a half
    Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

    Each day a hundred thousand rout
    Followed that zigzag calf about,
    And o’er his crooked journey went
    The traffic of a continent.
    A hundred thousand men were led
    By one calf near three centuries dead.
    They follow still his crooked way,
    And lose one hundred years a day,
    For thus such reverence is lent
    To well-established precedent.

    A moral lesson this might teach
    Were I ordained and called to preach;
    For men are prone to go it blind
    Along the calf-paths of the mind,
    And work away from sun to sun
    To do what other men have done.
    They follow in the beaten track,
    And out and in, and forth and back,
    And still their devious course pursue,
    To keep the path that others do.

    They keep the path a sacred groove,
    Along which all their lives they move;
    But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
    Who saw the first primeval calf!
    Ah, many things this tale might teach —
    But I am not ordained to preach.
    — Sam Walter Foss

    Hopefully you get the point. I plan to use it in my organizational behavior class this summer, which ties somewhat to the idea of leadership but is even more appropriate to the point of the poem, I believe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s