Building Bridges of Understanding

Some people build bridges while others burn them. Some people guide others toward and across the bridge, while others point out the way, but refuse to cross that bridge themselves. There are even some who try to change the sign and lead people in the opposite direction. And there are others who simply build nothing at all.

Have you ever read a blog post or watched a vlog that made your stomach turn? While trying to understand the point that was being made, I have occasionally had trouble wrapping my mind around some blogger/vlogger comments because of the destructiveness of the blog or vlog content itself. Whether their words are intentional or unintentional, conscious or unconscious, humorous or poignant, I am amazed at times how many people burn bridges instead of build them.

I admit I have difficulty with the attitude of individuals who demand respect, favor change and support reform, but go about it in ways that tear others down. Their words are not constructive or solution-focused. Instead, they appear reactionary, disrespectful, and hurtful. There is a hidden message that they subconsciously communicate. It says: “Hey, if I can’t belong, then I won’t let you belong either!”

I have occasionally read or watched people string together statements where practically every sentence is based on an assumption. I would like to challenge these statements, yet like many other people, I secretly fear doing so because I want don’t want to be thought of as argumentative or appear as if I am contributing to the problem. And heaven forbid, we wouldn’t want our words to be misconstrued as making a reverse attack on a person’s thoughts or ways! So, whether we are lacking courage, or making a very wise choice, most of us usually say nothing at all.

But then, if we say nothing, we’re not doing anything to shorten the distance between people, nor are we working towards increasing understanding or fostering coexistence, which is how it should be. In our occasional selective silence, we’re not helping to build a bridge.

What is a “bridge builder?” Bridge builders are individuals or groups of people who work to empower all parties (people, communities) to come closer together in communication, understanding, and solidarity. They do this in ways they build up rather than tear down.

Take the Peace Corp for example. Launched in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, this organization was established to promote understanding between the predominant culture in the United States and cultures around the world. Their goal is to promote understanding and respect among cultures, provide assistance to developing countries, interact with people from different backgrounds, and exchange stories of understanding that emerge from those interactions.

In essence, they spend a little time walking in the other person’s shoes and gaining perspective and understanding of how the other person views and lives in the world. Never is their goal to belittle, attack or be destructive toward their fellow human being.

Another example of a bridge builder would be Rotary International, one of the many great service clubs in our world community. Before Rotarian’s take any action, they always ask themselves, individually and as a group, the following questions:

1. Is what I am proposing or doing the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
3. Will it build GOODWILL and better FRIENDSHIPS?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Bridge builders like these model courage and commitment to inter-cultural understanding by thinking about their fellow being first. They show an eagerness to share and exchange stories with others they meet on the road of life. By spending time with others who are different, learning and appreciating their culture and ways, and by being nurturing, supportive, and accepting they can then view their role as being the link or bridge that brings two (or more) worlds together.

“Bridge builders are people that care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, and expect more than others believe is possible!”
– John Boe

We are such a diverse “deaf community.”

  • Deaf
  • deaf
  • Deaf Mute
  • hard of hearing
  • pre-lingually deaf
  • post-lingually deaf
  • “early” late-deafened
  • late-deafened adults
  • deafened suddenly
  • people with progressive hearing loss
  • adults with age-related hearing loss
  • deaf with Usher’s Syndrome
  • deaf-blind
  • deaf with special needs
  • CI Users
  • Oral deaf
  • ASL users
  • Cued Speech users
  • SEE users
  • Deaf of Deaf families
  • Deaf of Hearing families
  • Deaf with Deaf children
  • Deaf with Hearing children
  • attendees/graduates of deaf residential schools
  • attendees/graduates of mainstream schools
  • attendees/graduates of oral school programs

… and the list goes on and on.

Each one of these groups of people have a right to call themselves “deaf.” Every one of these individuals make up the “deaf community.” No one group has sole rights to this title. No one person or group is more or less than the others, and our personal and collective differences are as countless as the stars above. Yet, we are all bonded in that we are “deaf” and in that we are fellow human beings with the ability to think, communicate and feel.

With all our unique differences, how can we as a “community” take action on important social issues, confront the injustice of barriers that separate human beings from one another and examine the role of prejudice and stereotypes in sustaining these barriers without being rejecting or destructive toward one another or toward those we are trying to enlighten?

Understanding someone from another culture or belief system can be difficult because people see the world, themselves, and others in fundamentally different ways. It’s easy to misinterpret things people say or do in a cross-cultural setting. Building bridges, or crossing them, isn’t easy. It’s a complex process where understanding “context” is everything.

To keep from misunderstanding the thoughts or behavior of others, the bottom line is that we have to try to see the world from the other person’s point of view, not just our own. Therefore, we need to ask questions and seek clarification before we react so that we do not burn a bridge we might one day have to cross ourselves.

If you’re a bridge builder, congratulations. The world is a much better place because of the difference you make in the lives of others.

“I think that’s what “unity” is —
it’s about knowing one another
and coming together
and working with no conflict.”

— Chief Alan Wilson, HAIDA

19 Responses to “Are You A Bridge Builder?”

    LaRonda,

    Beautifully stated. 🙂 I am thoroughly impressed with your blogs, picture choices, and so forth. Bridge Builder is one of your best yet: impressive amount of diverse “deaf” you’ve pointed out. *hands waving/clapping…whichever you prefer* Keep up the great work. 😀

    This is a very inspiring, thoughtful post! Really enjoyed it. The list of diversity really caught my attention. Thanks for putting this together, great stuff 🙂

    Best regards,
    Mark

    Excellent post! I especially liked how you list diverse deaf community. I continue to feel confident that we will build a BIG bridge sometimes soon to welcome the people to see what we are made of. I agree that some individuals continue to burn the bridges but we also need to remember that they can rebuild the bridges as well.

    LaRonda, I just found out that you live in the Bay Area, is that correct? If so, I hope to meet you sometimes soon!

    LaRonda You are a NATURAL!! This took my breath away! Hey lunch again???

    xo

    Julie

    Beautiful post! I can sense a sweet disposition here on your blog.

    You are of the proud and dignified temperament, LaRonda.

    I have this gutsy feeling you wrote this post based on that particular post on the other v/blog. I am not going to name it. You know. I know. And there is a rebuttal made by other intelligent deaf v/blogger. I left a comment there, the latter. I pretty said much.

    I totally agree with you that we are a diverse deaf community, and we need to come together as bridge builders.

    Great job putting the well-written thoughts and images together gracefully.

    Bingo. It is a bit frustrating for me to read about Deaf, etc. My 10 year old deaf son prefers to be called an oral deaf boy who loves listening and singing and he said at one point he could not help being who he was. It bothered me when he came home from one deaf school, upset and saying that the deaf children teased him about wearing hearing aids (deaf school as an ASL deaf school, of course, most teachers do not use their voices and my son still insisted on wearing aids. He was thrilled to be able to talk and listen finally after going mainstreaming…) I find myself not bothering to comment on any bloggers/vloggers who seems intent on burning the bridges and yet wanting to build bridges (for other niches of deaf) to cross over.

    I have no problem with “hearing loss”… my son did lose hearing. You lost hearing too.

    I don’t know… my taste is changing, zooming on the certain bloggers/vloggers that encourage openness and tolorance of all kinds of hearing impaired (hearing challenged? hearing disabled? etc.) people, expressing concern for deaf education (well, yes we have our deaf children to think about… need to make a better world for them, to have develop survival skills for them to live productively in the hearing world… after all we live in the hearing world.)

    Keep it up… we need your gentle tapping on the DeafRead.com to remind us that we are just simple, flawed, yet perfect humans, not DEAF humans, like every faces of human on the earth.

    LOVE this one!

    Beautifully done! So positive. The world will be in a better place if we are able to work together through respect, understanding, learning, and caring.

    Five Stars!

    LaRonda!

    I am so inspired reading your blog on this topic! I wished I saw your blog earlier so it would make my day. Funny because I just vlogged my thoughts today about recognizing subgroups of DEAF. Really, the point is that we are all deaf and it is a fact there is a diverse in our community. We just move forward to unify all of us regardless of our degree of hearing loss (oops, am I supposed to say that?), signing skills and background.

    You move my heart! You are indeed a bridge builder!

    LaRonda:

    We thank for people like you who is spreading peace and love among people.

    Blessed to be you!

    –DeafLinux

    WoW inspired & so beauiful webpage God bless you

    LaRonda!

    Wow, what a great job! You have already made my day. Beautiful.

    That is a great example. Let’s unify all of the degree of the deaf diverse into the deaf community.

    I do not know how to say to you……you have made the list further and further…may I call you “Dr. LaRonda?”

    Keep up the great work more and more.

    White Ghost

    Great principles of healthy bridge building you have there! I was thinking about Aidan’s comments about how we need to be careful about who the bridge builders are, using examples of Hitler and domestic violence. I thought of a analogy here. it is like building a bridge on a good foundation or bad foundation. This blog focuses on how to build a good foundation for building a bridge based on good principles and the bridge can become stronger because of that. The ones with bad foundations eventually weakens due to lack of strong support. You can see the consequences from both. Good foundation leads to stronger unity, stronger relationships, higher levels of happiness, etc.

    Hi everyone. I appreciate the comments that you shared above. Very uplifting and humbling at the same time.

    ~ LaRonda

    Thanks for thinking of us. I really appreciate these sentiments of yours….keep them coming, girl! What a way to go!

    Sioux Bear ~

    What a thought-provoking post, LaRonda. You added another angle, another perspective to “building bridges”. Thank you. I don’t know if I could have said it any better. All I can say is that I am glad I came across your blog. You go, girl!

    Hi Shari. I’m glad you found my blog. I added your blog spot to my blogroll as well. i visited it a little and enjoyed the read.

    Thank you for your comments.

    ~ LaRonda

    Hello LaRonda,

    I chanced upon your blog and found it to be very interesting. Though my deaf experience is a bit different (I was born deaf) I related to many things you’re discussing in your blog. So that’s nice to see out there.

    I hope I don’t sound too forward, but I thought you might like to check out my new film, “What’s Bugging Seth.” I’m just releasing it on on DVD and it does deal with some of the things you talk about. The link is: http://www.whatsbuggingseth.com.

    In any case, thank you for the blog and Happy Holidays,

    Eli Steele

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