It's hard not to idealize the place and paint it as more idyllic than it might have been, but that is my perception of a Bible camp in Alberta where my family spent time when I was very young. There were other camps I went to over the years but this one really stands out—perhaps because of the way childhood impressions get formed.
I can remember the dining hall and the playground. The arts and crafts shack. Cream soda at the canteen. Singing during chapel times. The picnic tables where we met for classes. The huge field where we played games.
And the bridge. I remember the bridge.
There was a bit of a gorge on the property that made it a bit difficult to get from one building to the other so people often sought a longer way around to access a road that provided a straighter, smoother path.
The decision was made to build a bridge—a bridge that would cross the ravine and provide an easier walk between areas of the property. A huge change for the camp.
My dad played a major role in making the bridge happen and I always thought of it as my dad's bridge. I found out in the last number of years that other people describe it in those terms, too. It would make me proud to think about that bridge; that big yellow structure dotting the landscape of such a special place.
Last summer my daughter worked at that camp and it provided an opportunity to go back and see the place, re-visit special spots, and of course walk across the bridge. But as we drove into the camp it quickly became apparent I didn't have quite the clarity of memory I thought I had.
Not surprisingly, there were new structures on site while others were gone, owing to the time that had passed and the changes that had occurred. But there was something else, too. Some buildings were in the wrong place, paths didn't lead to where they should, and areas were smaller than they once were. I was discovering how differently a child remembers some things.
I couldn't wait to get to the bridge, so I headed across the camp and then had to adjust my course when I realized I was slightly off track. The bridge was not where it had lived in my memory for the past decades.
And it was brown. Apparently it always had been.
So although I didn't hang on to the memories quite as tightly as I thought, it was nevertheless so good to stand on and walk across that bridge. The bridge itself had loomed large in my mind; a bridge that was built to provide increased access, a bridge that brought areas of the camp together, a bridge that served an important function and filled a need so perfectly.
My dad was not an engineer nor was he in construction. But he, along with a group of others, built a bridge. It has seen board replacements and new paint to be sure, but it has ultimately stood strong over the decades. He built many bridges in his life. This may have been the only physical one, but there were many, many others. Ones forged by kindness, compassion, understanding and caring for the needs of others.
We need more bridge builders. We need the type of people committed to providing others with access to where they want to be. People that see a way to bring others together. People willing to put in the work doing what they can to lift others up.
I don't foresee a time when I will physically put hammer and nail to build an overpass but then again, who knows. But I can certainly be a bridge builder. Imagine years from now looking back and recalling those bridges being built today. We may not see the work that has gone in to them nor may we remember them in quite the same way, but how wonderful would it be if those bridges were still standing and would have been responsible for a huge change in the world.
Let's acknowledge and thank all the bridge builders—those people committed to getting down to work in the ravines with the primary purpose of raising up everybody else. That's my outlook.