This Is an Addendum
Ti Ti, the Bridge Builder

I have for years mentioned how the Chinese have venerated the people in their country. Their respect for the older population was related to the wisdom of the elderly. Now, that knowledge-base wasn’t tied to their IQ. Rather, it was related to their ability to learn from decades of making mistakes and correcting their errors.

A wise old man

Therefore, if ethically I was Chinese, I would be brilliant at least based upon making mistakes. Nevertheless, I have certainly tried to learn the various lessons from the mistakes that I have made during my journey down the yellow brick road of my life.

I have written about Will Allen Dromgoole who wrote The Bridge Builder. Dromgoole was born a century after the beginning of the American Revolution in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Even though the Civil War was a decade prior to her birth, she was a woman before her time. She pushed for equality of the races and of the sexes, which wasn’t a normal mindset of people from the Mid-South or Americans in general.

Dromgoole wrote the poem, The Bridge Builder. When I was in high school, we had to memorize a hundred lines of poetry or prose each semester. It was a task that I absolutely hated. Nonetheless, hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about those lines that I memorized six decades ago. I memorized The Bridge Builder in my senior year.

The Bridge Builder was in my baby book. Back then, I thought that I got the message…be a bridge builder. I understood that. The old man going a lone highway who built the bridge was an example of how we should act. It was a generic message. In my twilight years, The Bridge Builder was understood by me as a far more personal matter than what was merely a nice poem.

I had the opportunity to discover a part of my family while I was visiting Inle Lake in Myanmar during winter break nearly seven year ago. I met a nine-year old who became a part of me…a part of my family and a part of my reason for being.

This is Ti Ti…back then.

This is Ti Ti now. This picture is of her at a student recognition program where she won the first place in the Shan State math contest. She is attending Gusto University and wants to major in Computer Science.

In my previous essay, I wrote about three suggestions from two of my mentors in my life: Bobby Kennedy and Carl Sagan. However, after that article was posted on my webpage, I thought that I should add an addendum based upon The Bridge Builder.

The Bridge Builder

An old man going a lone highway
Came at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast, and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned, when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.

"Old man," said a fellow pilgrim, near,
"You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again will pass this way;
You've crossed the chasm, deep and wide-
Why build you this bridge at the evening tide?"
The builder lifted his old gray head:
"Good friend, in the path I have come," he said,
"There followeth after me today,
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm, that has been naught to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him."

When I first read The Bridge Builder, I read it in my baby book. The old guy going a lone highway wanted to help some fair-haired youth from a potential “pitfall” in life. The old man’s act of care and love for some youth was a noble effort. He didn’t want that fair-haired youth to stumble in life’s “chasm, deep and wide.”

The chasm, deep, and wide….

In my article on Wednesday, I wrote about a deal that Ti Ti and I made. Her part of the deal was to tell me five things that she wants to do after graduating from college. This is the part of Ti Ti’s response to my email. She was fourteen when she sent this email.

I haven't thought all the five things yet. But the first thing I want to be when I grown up is inventor. Just like I told you five years ago. Cause I want to make the world better and also I want to serve my country.

Next, I want to be a data scientist since I am interest in Science, math and engineering.

The next one, I want to be a travel blogger. The reason is I love travelling and love natural beauty.

Ti Ti’s first paragraph was essentially that she wants to be a bridge builder to make people in Myanmar and the world a better place. It took me seven decades to reach the place that Ti Ti had reached in her early teens.

However, this essay is also about the one-liner that I came up with. It is in giving that we get. When the old man built a bridge to span the tide, a person asked him why he was wasting his time building a bridge.

This chasm, that has been naught to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him."

In my twilight years, what did the bridge builder do when he went home and went to bed? He said that he built the bridge for that fair-haired youth. Okay. His effort was for that other youthful traveler. However, the bridge builder was also benefiting from his bridge building. The old man went to sleep feeling that he had helped both the fair-haired youth and himself.

Another poem that I memorized parts of while in high school was The Vision of Sir Launfal by James Russell Lowell. Launfal was on his quest to find the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail was the cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper. Launfal was looking in vain for a thing, the chalice. However, he realized that at the end of his life that what was more important.

“Not what we give, but what we share
For the gift without the giver is bare;
Who gives himself with his alms feeds three
Himself, his hungering neighbour, and Me.”

This goes back to my saying. It is in giving that we get. The Bridge Builder and The Vision of Sir Launfal were both about helping others, but the helper benefits also.