The bridge and the plank

By Paulo Coelho

After many years of work and meditation on the best way to cross the river that ran past his house, a man created a kind of footbridge out of planks. The villagers, however, rarely used it because it seemed so precarious.

One day, an engineer appeared. With the help of the inhabitants, he built a proper bridge, which infuriated the maker of the footbridge. He would tell anyone who would listen that the engineer had failed to show due respect for his work.

‘The footbridge is still there!’ replied the other villagers. ‘It’s a monument to your years of effort and thought.’

‘Yes, but no one uses it,’ the man would reply tetchily.

‘You are a highly respected citizen and we all like you, it’s just that we find the new bridge more beautiful and more useful than your plank footbridge.’

‘But it’s crossing my river.’

‘Now, however much we may respect your work, we have to say that the river is not yours. We could wade, swim or row across it, but if people prefer to use the bridge, why not respect their wishes? Besides, how can we trust someone who, instead of trying to improve his own bridge, spends all his time criticising someone else’s?’

(Based on a story by Silvio Paulo Albino)

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