The Fence

By: Susan Smith
Monday, November 9, 2015

During grief, families often find themselves arguing over things that are just things. Susan Smith, editor and writer, tells a story about uniting two brothers and the power of forgiveness. Life is short and relationships are precious. Perhaps this story will soften your heart and help you think about those you need to forgive.

by Susan Smith

Once upon a time two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch. Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence. One morning there was a knock on John’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox.

“I’m looking for a few days work,” he said. “Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there I could help with? Could I help you?”

“Yes,” said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbor; in fact, it’s my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll go him one better. See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a fence, an 8-foot fence, so I won’t need to see his place or his face anymore.”

The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”

The older brother had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing. About sunset, when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer’s eyes opened wide and his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge – a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! It was a fine piece of work, handrails and all.

As the farmer surveyed the bridge, he saw his younger brother coming across, his hand outstretched. “You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done,” said the younger brother.

The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other’s hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder.

“No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you,” said the older brother.

“I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, “but I have many more bridges to build.”

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