Imagine with me that you’re going along a trail in the woods in Vermont and you come across a steep gorge with a river rushing at the bottom. There is only one way to get across. You see a bridge and it’s made of… this: [show basket of grass… long overgrown grass, and pass it around so kids can touch the grass to get a feel for it.] What I want to know is what questions would be running through your mind before you set foot on that grass bridge? [allow several answers… then add]: What I would want to know, more than anything else, is if the people who made the bridge also walked across it, and whether they still use it.
Of course, we don’t have bridges made of grass in Vermont, but many were built for hundreds of years in South America by the Inca people, and I think a few still exist. Here’s how they did it. First, they made fresh bridges once a year. On the appointed day, everyone in the village would gather to begin work. Each person had a special role to play in building the bridge. First, there were people who gathered the grass. Then, other people took that grass and twisted it into long ropes. Then people took those ropes and wove them into thick braids. And those braids were twisted by other people into long cables, as thick as my arm. Certain people strung the cables across the gorge and pulled them nice and tight, and finally there were riggers who would lash the cables together in such a way as to create a footbed to walk on and rails on each side to hold.
Each person did their part as best they could, and they relied on everyone else to do their part well, because every one of them needed that bridge to safely carry them across the river whenever they needed to go that way.
I tell you about grass bridges this morning for two reasons: First, it reminds us of how important our small part is, when it’s part of something big and strong and even miraculous as a bridge made of grass. I have to say, I think it’s miraculous that a bridge can be made of grass. And these bridges could span 60 feet! That’s longer than the length of our sanctuary! And they could hold five people at a time, and llamas too!
Second, we at First UU may not be building a bridge across a raging river, but we are building a way toward our future, our shared vision. I want to walk that way! I hope many of you will walk that way too. And if I’m going to walk that way, I want to walk a way that feels sure and strong and safe — a way that I know has been built well with everyone doing their part as best they can. So may we all build that way together, like the Inca grass bridge builders!
Props: a bunch of long grass. I put mine in a basket.
This video provides some visuals and background about the creation of the bridges: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jh5mYw3PNhs