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City Year Founding Story: The Bridge Builder

Art by Morgan Parnell

An old man, going a lone highway,

Came at the evening, cold and gray,

To 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 fears 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 must pass this way;

You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide—

Why build you the bridge at the eventide?”

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 pit-fall be,

He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;

Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.”

— Will Allen Dromgoole

Bridge building is a powerful metaphor, and tool, for social change. Seeing and making connections—whether among people or ideas—is a hallmark of bridge builders, whose lives are rooted in values and who dedicate their time and energy to causes larger than themselves.

For perhaps every societal breakthrough, there was some one who came before, who mentored others or offered the world a new idea. Bridge builders bring out the best in others by connecting resources and talents to great and worthy causes, especially anticipating the needs of future generations. Bridge builders use the wisdom and experience they have gleaned for the benefit of others, even those whom they may never meet. Seek to encourage, to connect, to strategize, and to share a vision with those who will come after.


About the Artist: Morgan Parnell was born in Colorado, but spent 17 years overseas—as the daughter of a diplomat—before returning to the U.S. to attend Washington University in St. Louis. She worked for Macy's corporate office for two years, before deciding to give a year of service with City Year Boston. She now works at the U.S. Department of State. She said, I've always been an artist. City Year was an invaluable part of my life while I was in Boston and I enjoyed incorporating a founding story into my passion."