I grew up along the banks of the Mississippi River; in fact where the river flows east to west.

On summer days, I loved riding my red Schwinn English racing bike to the area of town called Cottage Grove, which was located right along the Mississippi River banks.

I’d ride with my friends to the river’s edge. I liked to pretend that we were like Tom Sawyer, playing along the secluded shores of the Mississippi.

My mother had relatives in Iowa that we frequently visited. These trips to Iowa required a trip across the Mississippi. I really enjoyed the part of the trip where my dad would drive the family car across one of the bridges that spanned the Mississippi River.

During my growing-up years, there were three bridges in the Quad-Cities that cars could take, bridging the Illinois and Iowa sides of the river.

It was always such a treat for me as a little kid to hand the bright orange ticket to the guy in the ticket booth on what was called the Iowa-Illinois Suspension Bridge; and when crossing Rock Island’s Centennial Bridge, I loved handing the dime to the guy in the tollbooth.

That’s just the way it was then during Quad-Cities life in the ’50s . . . bridges, tollbooths, and real people taking tickets and tolls.

I remember in 2nd grade my teacher, Mrs. Harriett Wilson, referring to the Mississippi River as the father of waters. After learning that fact, it made the trips across the Mississippi extra special.

When I was about 10 years old, the Iowa-Illinois Suspension Bridge went through a construction process. The bridge went from two lanes to four lanes. I delighted in watching the “new” bridge be built . . .  a double suspension bridge it was.

I must admit I’m fascinated by the process of building bridges; in particular, building bridges from one person to another, via the heart.

I’m aware that I’ve not always looked at myself as a natural bridge builder; however, today in Act 3 of my life, I’m acknowledging the joy I experience in being a bridge builder.

The bridges I build are bridges of joy.

Earlier today I visited the downtown Austin Farmer’s Market. The community spirit present in the park during the Farmer’s Market is so sweet to experience and  just naturally lends itself to building bridges moment by moment with the vendors and shoppers.

After shopping I headed back to my car; and along the way, I met two 20-something women heading towards the Farmer’s Market.

I noted one of them was wearing a navy blue t-shirt with Augustana emblazoned in gold letters.

I immediately knew where this young lady had gone to college . . . Augustana, located in Rock Island, Illinois . . . part of the Quad-Cities . . . where I had grown up.

I smiled as the two women approached and said, “You must be an Augustana Vikings fan.”

Not a word did she say in response. She simply walked by, choosing not to build a bridge with me in that moment.

Me . . . I simply acknowledged the choice that she made, and most importantly, acknowledged myself for my willingness to take the risk and be a bridge builder in living.

Not too far down the road, I met up with someone in passing who was willing to build a bridge . . . connecting momentarily, we built a bridge of joy, connecting heart to heart.

Loving you,

Robert, aka Bob

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