Once upon a time two brothers, who lived on adjoining farms, fell into a conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labour and goods as needed without a conflict.
Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.
One morning there was a knock on the older brother’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s tool box.
“I’m looking for a few days’ work.” – he said. “Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there I could help with?”
“Yes.” – said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbour; in fact, it’s my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll do him one better.”
“See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a fence –an 8-foot fence – so I won’t need to see his place or his face anymore.”
The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”
The older brother had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day.
The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job.
The farmer’s eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge – a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work, handrails and all – and the neighbour, his younger brother, was coming toward them, his arms outstretched – “You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done.”
The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other’s hand.
They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox onto his shoulder.
“No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you,” said the older brother.
“I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, “but I have many more bridges to build.”
When relationships between two people turn sour, it is very easy to build fences around us, which serve the purpose of keeping the other person out of our lives. Also, beware of whom you share your feelings with. Unlike the carpenter in the tale, other people whom you approach will only be too happy to help you build the fences, and rare is the person who will help you to build a bridge instead.
In any rift situation we have two choices – to build a fence, or to build a bridge. Let us all make a conscious choice to build a bridge instead, because relationships matter, and how we handle conflicts defines who we are, and what we will become.
This wonderful story was shared by Ms Ekta Bajaj on her Facebook group “Go Positive”. Both, Ms Bajaj and the Go Positive group have been a source of some wonderfully motivational and inspirational stuff, and it is a group that I love to visit frequently to stay inspired.