Note: This is a reprint of my November 2, 2015 blog less than a month after my brother Fred's passing. He was highly respected for his knowledge and love of community and family.. Today, October 20, 2021 marks the sixth year of his homegoing..
As far back as I can remember, my small closely-knitted community has had two central meeting places: Bethel Baptist Church and the Bridge.
If one were African-American and attended church in the community, Bethel was it. Respected as the "cement" of the community, for many of us, our future was shaped within the pews and on the grounds of Bethel. I still hold very precious and enduring memories of my home church.
Other than Bethel, the central meeting spot was Fork Run Bridge where the community-at-large met throughout the week. The bridge had a way of tying the whole community together. Where my family lived, the bridge connected us to the rest of our relatives and to the church. The bridge literally bridged several communities.
Whether churchgoers or non-churchgoers, people gathered on the bridge on makeshift chairs or lard cans or just leaning on the rails while the line of their fishing pole bobbled in the water with a worm-stuffed hook awaiting a robin or trout to take a nibble. The catch could make a fine supper. With the fishing was talk of the community of who was feeble, ailing, or on the mend, when the gardens would be ready for picking; and other things of interest. We children played under the watchful eyes of the elders' fishing and talking.
During the fifties, my brother, Fred, and his best friend Lewis started sitting on the bridge nearly every day from the time they got out of school until dusk. They soon became the main fixtures of the bridge. Lewis’ sisters and I still wonder what they were talking about, most likely cars and girls. As Bethel was a central part of our lives, so the bridge also played an important role.
Then June 2009, a neighbor who had worked with the highway department, came to my house to tell me the state was planning to destroy the bridge and not replace it. In fact the county commissioners were to meet that night. With only a short time to prepare, I went to the meeting.
Although I was not on the agenda, the chairman of the board allowed me to speak. After the meeting, I contacted my brother and informed him of the situation. What happened as a result of his intervention and his tenacity, knowledge of government, and favor was nothing short of miraculous. Because he persevered even in the face of strong opposition from the state and overwhelming DOT determination that the bridge would not be rebuilt…today a new bridge spans the creek tying the community together again.
Since his death, I have thought about the significance of his valor and unconquerable faith. From those thoughts, I have gained several lessons I want to share.
The first is simple but powerful. No matter how impossible a situation may seem, there can be victory for believers! Faith does move "mountains" I know a bridge that proves it.
The second lesson deals with the act of building bridges. Fork Run Bridge spanned a waterway that tied two communities together. Not only did it tie two physical communities but also two racial, churchgoers and non-churchgoers, old and young communities as well. Bridges allow us to cross where chasms separate; and in my community, I knew a man whose work to tie together communities still follows him.
Biblical Affirmation: And I heard a voice from Heaven, saying unto me, “Write: ’Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth.’” “Yes,” said the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works do follow them. Revelation 14:13 (21st CKJV)