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 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 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