Three Men And A Bridge

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There is beauty, want, and need everywhere around you all of the time anywhere you happen to be.  All is takes to see or witness it is to slow down your pace of life just long enough to watch it materialize before your very eyes.

God created man (and woman) to be needy creatures….needy for other personal relationships,…needy for good companionships and conversations,…and needy for other people’s company to share their joys,  burdens, victories, and defeats.  People, in short, simply need to be around other people.

Ms. Sandy Snavely from Portland, Oregon told a great story of her experiences and lessons learned from the daily commute between her home and work.  Although her “classroom of learning” was not inside of a building, it nonetheless served as an effective learning place.  But let us listen to what she experienced.

“The bridge has become a kind of good old friend to me.  When I first began crossing it every morning on my way to work, it was the signal that my long trip was nearly finished. But after a time I began to focus instead on the people walking across the bridge. The Ross Island Bridge is one of the few bridges in Portland where walkers are as welcome as drivers.  There was a young black man whom I would pass by almost every morning.  His intelligent and handsome face also seemed determined and driven.  I started praying for him, for his day, and for his life.  When we didn’t meet on the bridge, I found myself deeply concerned for him.  Now he is never there.  I wonder where he is, how he is.  Was he a student?  Did he finish school?  Did he become ill while forging through the wicked winter weather?  Or did he simply buy a car and join the morning commute on wheels?  Then there is the older man who is occasionally seen with a large metal cross hoisted over one shoulder with a sign on his back that reads, “Jesus saves sinner from hell.”  My stomach always churns when I see him.  He is not as easy to pray for as is my young black friend.  Maybe it is because I am not as bold in my faith as he.  Maybe it is because though his cross gives the appearance of being large and heavy to carry, it is actually supported by a small cart of wheels.  There’s just something about that picture that makes me uncomfortable.

But the portrait that has found the deepest place in my memory is that of a homeless man and his dog.  The man was unshaved and disheveled.  He wore an old camouflaged army field jacket, trousers, and military boots.   He had long hair, not yet turned in color by age.  His backpack was heavily packed, pulling his shoulders forward.  Although this scene was not unusual for the area, I guess it was the dog that brought such love to the picture.  He was a big, old, and obviously loyal black Labrador Retriever.  It had two canvas pouches that were well balanced on each side of his chest.  The man and his dog poignantly displayed the heart of true friendship.  How many times in my own life have I longed to have my bundles of burdens so affectionately carried.

My young black friend drew me to pray for him, for he was needy in spirit.  The old man with the cross harshly illustrated the need for gentleness and authenticity when sharing my faith.  But it was the homeless man and his dog who reminded me of the deep longing of every soul, the cry of every heart.  To have one at your side whose love is so unconditional and uncompromising, who refuses to cast blame or to judge the hows and whys of the burden, but instead comes alongside and shoulders the load.  There’s a profound privilege in being both the burdened and the burden bearer, to be needy and to be needed.

As I continue my journeys through life, I know there will be many bridges yet to cross.  Whether forging ahead or just struggling with a friend to get to the other side, I will treasure in my heart the lessons from three men and the bridge.

Blessings and Encouragement to You………………  

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