Sometimes We Need A Bridge: Lessons from Life’s Classroom

Meet my new pal Dalton. I adopted him a few weeks ago. He has lots of energy and really loves his catnip ball.

At one years old, Dalton can sometimes be a bit high energy for his companion fatman, who has been around much longer. fatman Even still, as this pair spends more time together, they seem to be developing a good companionship.

fatman and dalton

Laying around is one of their favorite activities…Who knew?

The motivation behind this note came from something that happened in my process of adopting Dalton.

Something simple, but important.

While I was waiting on the paperwork to be processed, I decided to take a trip back to the adoption site to pay Dalton a visit. While there, I came upon a woman who was admiring him, and some the other cats as well. I walked up, and began to silently observe them all too. After a few short moments had passed, the woman began to speak to me.

“I love this cat! He reminds me of a cat I’ve had for years.”

“Me too. I saw him in the window and couldn’t resist. I’ll be adopting him soon, and I’m hoping he’ll be a good friend for my other cat.”

“That’s great! I’m sure he will. I have two cats who’ve been good together for years.”

She took out her phone, and proceeded to show me some pictures of her feline companions in a way I’m sure a proud parent would show off their children. The conversation took off from there. I think we stood there, for a good 25 minutes talking about cats, and finding other things in common too.

To me, the profound thing about this encounter was that this was a person who I really didn’t think about engaging with at all initially. In fact, on the surface, I’m not sure if either of us would  have gotten to know each other at all in another context.

Had it not been for Dalton and the other cats, as well as some genuine friendliness on her part, that conversation would have never taken place, and I would not have had the opportunity to learn that we shared some things in common.

On being the Bridge.

Much of my work involves bringing people together who might believe that they have nothing in common, and working through conflict, acknowledging and learning from differences to get gain a better understanding while working to find similarities and common ground.

The kind of interaction I described can take a great deal of time, and because it does not always happen organically, sometimes we need a bridge to connect us at a common level, which can set the tone and enable us to begin to connect on a deeper level.

I saw Dalton as the bridge in this story, and the outcome reminded me not only to strive to be a bridge for others to be able to cross to communicate across differences, but also to pay attention for the bridges that can present themselves in my own life which can help me to grow, if I choose to cross them.

Have you had experiences in your own life where you’ve needed a “bridge”?  Did you feel as if you were able to cross that bridge?  If so, what helped you to be able to feel comfortable enough to cross it? Did you feel like you couldn’t? If so, what do you feel prevented you from doing so?

Ubuntu,

From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins, MSW

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I'm a Social Worker, Educator, and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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4 Responses

  1. Geof says:

    Nick Hornby wrote a book, Fever Pitch, about his love for Arsenal (a soccer team). One of my favorite scenes in the books is when his girl friend asks him what on earth he gets out of being a fan of a sports team. His reply was along the lines of, “I can go into any pub, sit down next to any man in it, and start talking about football (soccer). He may not be an Arsenal fan, but he probably has passing knowledge of the sport and his favorite team. I don’t have to wonder how to talk to him or about what we could possibly both share an interest. I can just sit down and start a conversation. Can you do that?”

    I loved the way he points out having a conversation starter is an important part of socialization and broadening networks.

    Feel free to delete this next part or entire post as many don’t like advertising on blog posts, but 50 years after the dream speech, I wrote a couple of thoughts about it, and I’m curious as to your take on them. I am obviously coming from a different position on it, but hopefully not too far apart. As you write/think about this stuff far more often than I, your opinion is one I would naturally seek. Thanks,

    • Great point there Geof! Starting from a place of having things in common can definitely help us to connect with people we don’t know, and sports can be one of those great conversation starters.

      If you’d like to share your thoughts with me, just send me an email. You can either do it directly or send a link or text through my contact form. I’d welcome your sharing anytime.

  2. Craig Moncho says:

    Nicely told, Mr. Thompkins. Makes me miss Nudge and MyLiege, who had their very own kitty understanding.

    • Thanks Craig.

      Cats are great, and as a fairly new pet owner, there is a whole world that I’m being introduced to in terms of some of the other cool pet owners I’ve had the opportunity to meet along the way.

      I’ve noticed for myself that I can learn a lesson from many things around me, if I only pay attention. Trying to be intentional about paying closer attention to life’s everyday lessons is one of the reasons I started this lesson’s from Life’s Classroom series here at N.A.H. Thanks for reading.

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