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Learning As I Go: Pick Up Those Nails

Christy Bass Adams: Guest Columnist

I was reminded this week of a time when I was walking around Lake Frances, here in Madison. As most of you know, the paved walking path and beautiful wildlife make this a fabulous place to exercise. As I was walking, I saw a small nail in the road and purposefully stepped over it. I thought about going back and moving it so that no one would step on it or pick it up in a tire, but instead of going back, I kept walking.

No matter how hard I tried, I could not stop thinking about the possible danger I failed to remove for someone coming behind me. I threw up a half-hearted prayer that no one would get hurt and it occurred to me how easy it would have been to simply pick up the nail. My action, or rather lack of action, could be the stumbling block that kept someone from moving forward successfully with their day.

As I thought more about the nail, I began to wonder what other obstacles I could be unintentionally leaving behind. Maybe my attitude gets rotten or I am stuck in selfishness. Maybe I am carelessly throwing around words without considering others' feelings. Or maybe I am impulsive or ungrateful. My intentions at the time may not be to cause anyone harm, but by neglecting to go back and pick up my "nails", I could cause another person to stumble in their own path.

When I was in the classroom full time, Tim Sanders sent a poem to me entitled "The Bridge Builder," by W. A. Dromgoole. In the poem, an old man travels across a large hole and instead of continuing on his journey, he decides to stop and build a bridge for those who will be coming down the path behind him. Not only did he pick up the figurative nail in the road, but he created a whole new route for those who would be traveling that way in the future.

In this life, our journey is not just about us. We are paving a way for the next generation. Are we going to stop and remove the "nails" that we have left in the way? Are we going to take the time to build a bridge? Or will we choose to live in selfishness and pride, neglecting our roles as leaders, counselors, educators and friends? As I wrap up today's column, I want to leave you with the last few lines of "The Bridge Builder." Let's pick up our nails, my friends, and build bridges for those who will follow in our way.

"‘Why build this bridge at evening tide?'

The builder lifted his old gray head; ‘Good friend, in the path I have come,' he said,

‘There followed after me today, a youth whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm that has been as naught to me, to that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;

He, too, must cross in the twilight dim; good friend, I am building this bridge for him!"

For more inspiration from Christy, visit her blog at or send comments to

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