“How can we bridge divides in our community?”
It’s a question both straightforward and complicated. Written at the top of a board we displayed, it was the query we asked passersby to answer on Maryland Day–a day when thousands of people come to campus to explore the university’s programs and activities. Participants wrote their responses on a notecard, and over the course of the day, we built a two-dimensional bridge out of their answers.
It’s broad, yet specific, and everyone seemed to interpret it differently. What does community mean? And what do we mean by divides?
People ended up projecting onto the notecards more of what they wanted to see in the world, whether that be on a local, state, national or international level. By the end of the day, our board was so overwhelmed that it was ironically more of a wall than a bridge.
Some solutions were social: “education and awareness,” “open and easy communication that reaches everyone,” “compromise more.”
Others were policy based: “vote,” “recycle,” “listen to facts,” “living wage,” and “equal rights.”
But more than anything, many were personal reminders or small actions everyone could take to make their own immediate reality a better one than it was before. These words of advice came out of everyone, even from children who had to have their parents help them write their response.
- “Live life in radical amazement”
- “Know your neighbors”
- “Say hi to more people”
- “Love radically”
- “Just be yourself”
- “Smile more”
- “Share happy moments”
- “Treat people with dignity and respect”
- “Be thankful always”
- “Help people that need it!”
Arguably, those were the most touching. They were the cards that people stopped to read, and the responses that were echoed the most. It goes to show that, ultimately, those values of kindness, empathy, and love are the foundation of any bridge we build.