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Crossing Bridges

Updated: Jun 4, 2020

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In this space between the no longer and the not yet, we have the opportunity to be more of our Self. In this moment, our collective efforts whether it be an essential worker, creation of new songs, feeding the hungry, or the making of masks are both courageous and creative, all making good on the promise of a just and equitable world for all.

There are many ways to describe Self including our essence or true nature or seat of awareness. In coaching we speak about access to Self through eight qualities that begin with c (8c’s) including confidence, curiosity, courage, clarity, creativity, compassion, calmness, connectedness. The essence of who we are is like a diamond with many facets/qualities that shine light on our true nature.

It’s the characteristics of 8 c’s that come to mind as I participate in and witness the collective miracles and creativity that is happening in this moment...and in a way that brings about the best of who we are as resilient people. I’ve learned alot about resilience from observing other cultures in action. This awareness has given me a deep appreciation for our shared humanity as well different eyes in which to see and spot such signs of resilience in my own communities and within myself. Over the years, I’ve had the fortune of living and working in places that were a living demonstration of the power of what a community accomplishes when coming together around a common vision and plan for the future. One such memory comes from a small village in Northern Brazil.

During the late 70’s, I was invited to live in Brazil as staff for a Human Development Project. I’d already worked in Zambia and Venezuela as well as a slew of rural and urban communities in the USA. So, by that time I was pretty familiar with arriving in strange spaces and carving out some sense of normalcy. I had also developed a practice of creating a couple of touchpoints to remind me of me...e.g. Music, both from my own community, and that of the community or country I was living in. Home cooked meals reminding me of home while using the local ingredients were a second touchpoint. And yet, I felt more hesitation than excitement as I accepted this new assignment.

It was at the end of the rainy system (june) when I arrived solo at the Galeão International Airport in Rio De Janeiro where I was met by staff from my organization. The plan was to spend three days in orientation prior to traveling out to the village which would become my new home. Once the orientation was completed, one of the staff members and myself set out to the village by bus, which was about four hours from Rio. Going by bus meant that we’d be arriving after dark, however, since this was a bus that went close to the entry into the village, I didn’t have much concern about hauling my luggage. However, what hadn’t been accounted for was the rain storm earlier in the day that washed out the makeshift bridge (made of logs and planks) that provided access to the village. Underneath the bridge was the river that ran through the village.

As we approached our exit, the constant hum of conversation that began earlier in Rio slowly began to quiet to the point where you could only hear the motor of the bus. When I asked my colleague what was happening she informed me about the bridge. The impact of Her statement left an unsettling feeling of fear and uncertainty at the pit of my stomach. It was sinking in that washed out bridges might be my new normal.

Once we got close to the site of the “no longer bridge,” several men jumped out to access the situation while many of us remained on the bus. After some time it was clear that the bus had no way of making it across that night and that the best option would be to forage for some additional planks in order to create a makeshift foot bridge so that we the passengers could carefully and gently cross. It was also decided that a few men would stay with the bus to protect any belongings that couldn’t be carried across. Although I didn’t understand Portuguese (the most I understood was “sim” or yes) I became mesmerized by the interactions and sense of community that unfolded as everyone began to provide input and problem solve. There seemed to be lots of agreement and a sense of being listened to. Except for my fear of drowning (I don’t swim), my initial uneasiness began to dissipate.

Later we would be asked to carry whatever belongings we could across the footbridge. Once we retrieved whatever we could carry, we started our journey across the footbridge. The sky was a deep navy blue and dotted with the brilliance that only stars bring. Three men from the bus led the way, while the women were in the middle with several men at the back. I was wedged in between an older woman from the village and my co-worker. I’ll never forget how precarious everything felt..and how with each step I could sense my own mortality. At some point my colleague asked the woman from the village if this situation was normal, and the answer was sometimes. She then asked if the woman was afraid. ..what I remember is that the woman looked up to the sky and started waving her hand...she was saying “We Have Faith.” Those words have stuck with me…”Have Faith.”

Having Faith was about crossing a bridge...which symbolized a transition from the No Longer to the Not Yet. Having Faith was about being aware of how I was crossing that bridge, could I trust in this group of strangers who were all having a similar experience to mine, and knowing that we were dependent upon each other. Having faith was watching that collective group of people and myself operate from our best Selves..i.e. about leading with Self, Self that could be creative in a given moment, Self that was connected with everyone on that bus, Self that was courageous, and most of all Self that was compassionate and calm. I began to learn that night that when we lead with Self, we are capable of miracles, of crossing bridges that represent the no longer and the not yet, and with each footstep towards the future, shaping new patterns of being.

Questions for reflection

In our ongoing process of becoming, how are we individually manifesting resilience?

Where do you see the collective muscle of resilience manifesting?

In addition to technology, how might we explore a stronger connection to each other?

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I remember this story, Sharon, the masterful storyteller. So beautiful, so deep in meaning.

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