Friday, August 3, 2007

Broken Bridges Part I

In corporate America, in interfaith work, in campus activism we often speak about building bridges. But what happens when those bridges break?

When physical bridges break we are faced with tragedies.

For three and a half years I drove over Key Bridge nearly every day as part of my commute to Georgetown. Rushing to an exam, class or iftar with a truck full of food and hungry MSAers calling every five minutes, the bridge was a sign of relief, a sign post saying "You're almost there!". Chatting on the phone or with Dania or Kiran, my carpool-mates, the bridge was the first step on our happy journey home. Its impossible for me to imagine one day this bridge that I rely on to simply give way, to fall out from underneath me.

The Minnesota families are in my thoughts and prayers.

But what about those intangible bridges that we also rely on and take for granted? The bridges we build with our friends, our co-workers, our classmates, our fellow MSA-ers. Invisible to the naked eye, these bridges facilitate far more than travel, they create the bonds that help us navigate through the test that is life.

When I need help at work, I know I can rely on my friend Deepthi, a fellow analyst, to help me out. Earlier this week, I spoke to a friend whose mother has breast cancer. It was difficult for her to describe her new relationship with her mother. Lean on me, I said, I've been where you are ten years ago with my grandmother. My grandmother had to realize that breast cancer changes what you can do; it limits you like nothing else. And I had to learn that she was not this invisible pillar of strength who much to my delight could overrule my mother, but a woman like any other and she needed my help.

I was so grateful that I had this connection to my friend that we could talk about her fears and feelings. That intangible bridge linked us together.

But what happens when we break the intangible bridges? When the tone of our e-mail, a conversation, our unyielding opinions break bridges with others?

Truthfully, its very difficult to judge the strength of a relationship. One person may think they are very close another; the other person may feel they are so distant.

Its so easy to let someone else's thoughts and actions plague your mind; to hold this feeling of dislike and distrust in your heart. I've woken up countless times in the middle of the night from the duress of a bad dream. How could the media say that about Muslims? How can Muslims say such things about other Muslims? Why would people make up lies about my father?

Perhaps its one of the beautiful aspects of Islam that Allah swt commands us to forgive others and to ask for forgiveness. To say "I forgive you" is simple, to mean it is something different alltogether.

Forgiveness is like a steal beam strengthening the buttress of a decaying bridge. When we forgive, when we allow ourselves to move on from the past we begin to rebuild and strengthen those crucial, intangible bridges.