Build a Bridge to Their Hearts

I came across this article and thought I'd share. I absolutely love the message and envision some wonderful leadership training moments. :) Visit the link below for the complete article:
Taken from a timeless message for leaders of youth:
Building Bridges, Thomas S Monson, New Era, November 1985
"Leaders of our young people fill a variety of roles. Some are trained executives and secretaries in the world of business, skilled physicians and nurses in the field of medicine, or competent teachers in the classrooms of learning. Others have studied sociology, psychology, languages, or history. Many are filling the vital role of homemaker. In reality, each is also engaged in the building trade. The product: building a bridge to the heart of a youth."
How can we reach our youth?  I answer, “Build a bridge to their hearts.”

Some attempt to build a bridge with inferior materials, inadequate planning, and improper tools. The finished product may appear substantial, attractive, and be ready for use in a minimum of time. But then come the storms and the stresses of life and the tell-tale sign: “Danger! Bridge washed out!” We cannot risk such an occurrence in our bridge building. Our responsibility is too great, our influence too lasting, our opportunity too perishable. We must build wisely, skillfully, and, with meticulous care, follow our blueprint.
In any bridge-building project, the first requirement is a visit to the site, that we might get clearly in our minds the task which lies ahead and the problems likely to be encountered. How wide is the gulf? How firm is the base? What is the stress factor? What are the available resources? Where and when do we commence?
Bridge builder, do you know your youth? Do you understand their problems and their perplexities, yearnings, ambitions, and hopes? Do you know how far they have traveled, the troubles they have experienced, the burdens they have carried, the sorrows they have borne?
Then we must prepare. A blueprint is to be drawn. Nothing can be left to chance. If we fail to prepare, we prepare to fail. Trite? Perhaps, but ever so true.
Preparation will dispel that hidden and insidious enemy who lurks within and limits our effectiveness. This enemy of whom I speak is fear. A fear to wholeheartedly accept our calling. A fear to provide direction to others. A fear to lead, to motivate, to inspire. In his wisdom, the Lord provided a formula whereby we might overcome the arch villain—fear. He instructed: “if ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30).

Is it a drawbridge?
Such a bridge is controlled exclusively by the operator. By command it moves up and out of place or down and into place. In Honolulu, I saw the weakness of such a bridge. While the operator raised the two portions high into the air to permit a vessel to pass beneath, long lines of automobiles and pedestrians waited impatiently. Their own onward course was halted abruptly. When our youth need our help, we cannot afford to have a disconnected bridge. The angry waters of discouragement and despair wait altogether too threateningly and menacingly to swallow the young person who would attempt a crossing to safety. The drawbridge is out.
What about a swinging bridge?
Such a bridge is easily built. It is quaint and provides a sweeping view. But what happens to such a bridge when the winds of life whip up to tempest proportions? The bridge swings with the gale and can hurl an unsuspecting traveler to destruction.
When bridge builders are wavering in their testimony, when they yield to temptation or the way of the world, they hold out to young people the dangers of a swinging bridge. Wise youth will not trust such a bridge. And wise builders will not waste their time or energies on such an uncertain undertaking.
Should we consider the footbridge?
Hastily erected, it permits limited traffic. There are no safety rails. It cannot carry the weight of present-day responsibility. It may reach to the opposite bank, but it won’t reach to the heart of a youth. The leader in the Church who looks at his or her assignment as one day a week, four days a month and no more, is guilty of such gross underbuilding. The footbridge cannot meet today’s growing needs. It parallels narrow concepts, limited vision, inadequate communication, and unsatisfactory results.
What of the covered bridge?
We see a few as we travel about the countryside. Usually they span small streams. Oh, the covered bridge may keep out a few storms, but have you noticed how the moss forms on the areas that never receive the sunlight? A musty odor and a dark passage await each person to cross over. To reach our youth, we need to permit the sunlight of truth to shine warmly on all parts of our bridge of understanding. We are to be optimistic, forward looking, abreast of these challenging times—and the old-fashioned covered bridge simply won’t suffice.
Should we attempt to build a narrow bridge?
The initial effort is modest, but inconvenience and hazardous travel will follow. One-way traffic, the curse of the narrow bridge, is like one-way communication. It is outmoded. A good leader must learn to listen. Listening is not a passive activity. To actively listen to another person requires willpower, concentration, and great mental effort. Its rewards are many, because only then do we really learn to understand our youth.
What, then, is the proper bridge to build?
When I was in Sydney, Australia, I crossed over one of the world’s truly great bridges. It is a tribute to human genius. I appraised its virtues:
  1. There was two way, multiple lane passage.
  2. The bearing load could accommodate the smallest Volkswagen or any number of mammoth semi-trucks and trailers.
  3. It was well supported and firmly anchored on both sides.
  4. It had been constructed with care. It could withstand the most severe storm or heaviest burden. Its stress strength was above, as well as below, the surface. Some parts, like the giant cables, were exposed to view. Other portions, such as the bearing girders and underwater supports, were hidden, but nevertheless doing duty as required.
  5. One felt safe in crossing such a bridge.
When our youth can discuss their challenges with us, rather than being relegated to the position of patient listener only, we have such multiple-lane passage. Understanding is enhanced and our work becomes our joy, for we see its effect in the lives of others. When the bearing load of our bridge is geared to accommodate minimum and maximum requirements, our youth trust our judgment and will unburden the heavy loads that sometimes weigh upon the human heart. When we have an abiding faith in the living God, when our outward actions reflect our inner convictions, we have the composite strength of exposed and hidden virtues. They combine to give safe passage for our youth.
Bridge builders, when we really love our youth, they will not find themselves in that dreaded “Never, Never Land.” Never the object of concern. Never the recipient of needed aid. Rather, we will be present, serving diligently and devotedly in the cause of truth and the cause of youth. We may never open gates of cities or doors of palaces, but true happiness and lasting joy will be ours as we achieve success in building a bridge to the heart of a youth.
We and our youth may be in the position described in this classic poem:
An old man, traveling a lone highway,
Came at evening cold and gray,
To a chasm deep and wide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
For the sullen stream held no fears for him,
But he turned when he reached the other side.
And builded a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” cried a fellow pilgrim near,”
You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
And you never again will pass this way.
“You have crossed the chasm deep and wide.
Why build you a bridge at eventide?”
And the builder raised his old gray head:
“Good friend, on the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet will pass this way.
“This stream which has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired boy may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim—
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”

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