Rather than seek it, bridge builders bring empathy and compassion. Is it our American “bootstrap” mentality that makes it so hard for us to show empathy to others who are different from us? Is it our fearing of returning to poverty or our “let’s keep moving forward” attitude? If we hope to build connections across difference, we have to find ways to walk in another person’s shoes. There is a quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that I keep on a card on the wall by my desk because it helps remind me of the power of empathy, “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s (or woman’s) life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”
Being a bridge builder is not easy. And being self-aware, active, respectful, humble, and empathic are qualities that don’t get a lot of play on the front page.
But the secret that bridge builders know is that their endeavors are not solely about doing something for others — they secure safe haven for each of us. Bridge builders are not altruistic, do-gooders. They are deeply connected to the truth that we are all one, all connected within these United States and across our world.