Needing Something To Carry

Hank Mattimore
Reproduced with Permission

A young man asked a lonely old man, "What is life's heaviest burden?" The man replied without hesitation, "To have nothing to carry." (E. Scott O'Connor)


I went grocery shopping the other day with one of the Village kids. Any parent who has taken kids shopping knows that having kids along is not the best way to get the job done economically. But, I was squeezing in some one-on-one time with a kid who seemed sort of needy that day. The mini-shopping trip would, at least, give us some time together.

After we made our purchases, and were leaving Safeway, "Sean" asked me if he could carry one of the bags of groceries I was toting. The bags were light and I could easily have carried them myself but I readily let him help me. Hey, when a kid offers to help, take him up on his offer. Besides, it was evident, Sean wanted something to carry.

The incident got me thinking about our human need to feel useful not just when we are kids but through our whole lives. E. Scott O'Connor's observation came to mind. Most of us find life burdensome at times but the greater burden is having nothing to carry.

All of us have a human need to matter to someone else. Country singer Tom T. Hall wrote a song about an old farmer who lived alone and was beside himself when he had to be admitted to the hospital. It wasn't himself he worried about. He asked instead "Whose gonna feed my hogs?"

Many of us long for the day when our kids will be gone or when we can retire not realizing that the nirvana we thought we would find when we were finally free from all our responsibilities is an illusion. We are somehow incomplete if we have no one who is counting on us. Human beings are wired to have a symbiotic relationship with one another. We are in this world to carry one another's baggage. If at times it is a burden, so be it. To have no one who needs us, nothing to carry, is the heaviest burden of them all.

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