Bridge over troubled waters

Published 10:16 pm Friday, October 19, 2018

I grew up in family of six kids and, I confess, without any pressure whatsoever, all of us were huge Simon and Garfunkel fans, including my parents. Now this was way back when the duo used to skip college classes, grab Simon’s guitar and fly to concerts. That was the whole band, two precocious college kids, a guitar in the luggage compartment, and, we hope, their textbooks. That is how they performed when first famous. Mind blowing considering the extravaganza of rock concerts today.

Easily for many, Simon’s poetic ode to comforting those in need, “Bridge over Troubled Waters,” can be considered the signature lyric of his long and storied songwriting career. With Garfunkel’s incredible vocal reach, and the crescendo of notes and sound as the song reached its pinnacle, the simple gospel hymn-feel of the words took you captive and let you go, with the last notes feeling alive, exhilarated and moved, and slightly spent. The chorus is etched in so many of our brains and hearts:

“When you’re down and out, when you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard, I will comfort you. I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around, like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down, like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down”

Even in later years, when the two would tour together and aging had claimed some of Garfunkel’s range, the song still burrowed to your core and simultaneously urged you to soar.

That anthem has taken on special meaning for me as of late. Two hurricanes in a month have left too many in their paths down and out and living on the street, if there still is one. The storm surge is gone, creeks and rivers may have receded or still are on their way down, but troubled waters have left their mark. Pain, suffering and loss of hope is common and all around us. There are some who stretch like a bridge to provide relief, there are a few who lay themselves down to aid and comfort. Carryout by Chrislyn and the many volunteers who have been moved to lend a hand to distribute meals in eastern North Carolina is one of those bridges. Hundreds of meals still go out in a day, weeks after Florence roiled our waters. The small army of help doesn’t command an epic performance, it really is cooks and preparers and drivers getting much-needed food from a kitchen to a relief center, like it was with two singers and a guitar traveling to perform with little fanfare.

This past Sunday morning, I watched the clip from Saturday Night Live of Paul Simon once again performing “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Without Arty (as Simon called Garfunkel), Simon’s 77-year-old voice strained, but he was backed by an impressive group of musicians, strings and some horns, and a keyboard at the end. If Garfunkel’s voice wasn’t there to help us soar, the instruments helped Simon to at least get those of us watching to take flight.

We are destined for more epic hurricanes in the coastal south, even some that could nail us again in Washington. It is a fact. Count on it. Roads and bridges that span the waterways may fail, but there will always be need on the heels of these future storms. At different times, we could be the needy and the bridge builders. If it is Garfunkel or an aging Simon that sings, or like me warbling under my breath, the words should always galvanize us. Those who can will always find a way to build a bridge by laying themselves down.