The Bridge

Posted by John James | Feb 1st, 2013 | Tags:

The Bridge

By John James

I was asked to write down the story I told during my last meeting of Local 748 concerning my feelings about the union and its future.

The union reminds me of a story I heard somewhere many years ago - it had to do with the settlers coming west by wagon train.  They knew the journey would be hard and dangerous - and they had heard stories of the gigantic obstacles the Western frontier had in store for them.

One day, they arrived at a river found at the bottom of the largest canyon anyone in the wagon team had ever seen.  It may have been a place like Lee’s Ferry in the Northern Arizona - Utah Border.

The settlers looked at the canyon and the raging river at the bottom and started making their plan for how they were going to cross the chasm.  Over the next few weeks the settlers worked tirelessly to lower their wagons and livestock down to a small beach at the bottom of the canyon.  Others built and chiseled a rudimentary road into the canyon wall so they could move the larger items to the beach.

Then they started crossing the water of the river, moving live stock and property one by one to the other side.  They used ropes and other equipment a brave man swam across to help get their property to the other side.  They started building a road leading up the other side of the canyon, but to call it a road, or to think of it in any way like a modern road would be wrong.  At best - it was a trail.

The settlers lost much live stock to the raging waters of the river.  Supplies and wagons were washed down as well.  It was a long and expensive effort.

Finally, all but one of the settlers had made the crossing.  That one settler said “no” to the many kind offers to help him move his property across the water.  He was a carpenter, and instead he would stay and build a bridge to span the raging flume of the rivers wrath.  No amount of convincing would sway him from this task.  His wagon train left him alone the next day.  

It took 2 years.  By himself he lowered wood to the river, hammered and sawed and fashioned a good and sturdy bridge that safely crossed the river at the bottom of the canyon.   It was no work of art - in fact it was down right ugly -  but it was solid and built to last for a very long time.

Just as he was finishing his work, and loading up the last of his tools and preparing to cross his bridge at the bottom of the canyon, a new wagon train appeared at the top of the abyss.  They were shocked at what they saw.

Not only had the man built a bridge - but he built a wider, safer trail to the bottom - large enough for one wagon and a team of mules to navigate.  And then there was the bridge at the bottom, heavy, strong and stalwart before the raging waters.  And on the other side, a new trail with logs built into the road surface to protect against sliding back down the hill.  It was a miracle to the settlers because no one in the wagon train knew this existed.  They were ready to do the same thing as the last train did two years before - fight and bleed and loose property as the cost of crossing this natural wonder.

When the settlers asked the man who had built this wonder - he told them the story of how he came to be there and how he built the bridge over two years of hard work and labor single handedly.  The settlers could not believe what they heard.

Why?  Why spend all that time and effort building a bridge that he would use only once?  Why?

His answer was this - Now I can cross safely with no loss of property or live stock.  And those who come after me can share the gift of safety as well.  I built this for those who come later.  Others have done the same thing for me, the people who found this trail to California and who helped forge the way, they did it for those who follow and for their needs.  They left behind a place that is better and safer than those who came before.  I pay homage to those who left behind something better than what they found. I benefited from their foresight, so I was obligated to do the same.

And with that, he crossed his bridge and made his way out of the canyon that was his home for two years.  He did it with dignity and integrity, and left behind something he could truly be proud of.

Imagine how he felt.  

And of course - this story is a fabrication - but the moral is not.

I imagine the Union is a lot like that bridge, something that will help those that come after us for many years to come, making the path safer and better for all who come this way.  The union is not a thing.  It is people, members, who call it their own - they are the ones who build something that will last after they have come this way.  And as my experience as President of 748 has shown, we are a civilized and sensitive union.  This unique organization is flexible and has a heart to those who are on the path and may not understand what the union is all about. Freelancer and management.

The man who built the bridge taught a powerful lesson to the settlers who came after him.  Just like we, as members of the Local, need to be the representatives, diplomats and educators to those who do not understand what the Union really is.  We must guard our Union from those who would want to use it for their own gain and not for the common good of the entire membership. 

In my case - it took me many years of trial and error to learn what the union was and how important it is to our community of broadcast professionals.  It is important to our community, our realm, everyday. A bridge worth protecting and maintaining.