The road is long, with many a winding turn that leads us to who knows where? Who knows when? But I’m strong – strong enough to carry him. He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.
So, on we go. His welfare is of my concern. No burden is he to bear. We’ll get there. For I know he would not encumber me. He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother. If I’m laden at all, I’m laden with sadness that everyone’s heart isn’t filled with the gladness of love for one another. It’s a long, long road from which there is no return. While we’re on the way to there, why not share? And the load doesn’t weigh me down at all. He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother. (Bobby Scott and Bob Russell)
In 1884, James Wells, in his book “The Parables of Jesus,” tells the story of a little girl carrying a big baby boy. Seeing her struggle, someone asked if she was tired. With surprise she replied, “No, he’s not heavy; he’s my brother.” This parable was made into a song made famous by The Hollies in 1969. The words embody the heart of an individual that despite the apparent heaviness and burden of their fellow man, the love for their fellow man outweighs the weight upon them.
America was built on this practice. In times past, particularly within the Black community, neighbor helping neighbor was as common as the cold. With the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the Blacks in America, strides towards building neighborhoods of free men and women took priority within their communities. Everyone offered their hands, their backs, their knowledge and their resources toward building a Black community within America’s borders. With funds being scarce, the Black community pooled their assets together to rebuild, in America, the village that had been forsaken, in their voyage to their new homeland. The village now took root in the southern quadrant of the United States; and soon a thriving network of new homes and businesses supporting those homes began to grow. Neighbor helping neighbor, the Black community in the south continued to grow and flourish.
Today however, we have seen a shifting away from this principle of helping our fellow man. An attitude of self interest has replaced the attitude of selflessness. Surely, we contribute to societies and causes, we give to our churches and even buy dinners to support community endeavors; but, as soon as our hands are off the money, so is our attention and concern. We leave the burden of seeing to the “needs” of those who may be downtrodden or having a bad turn of fortune to organizations, churches and agencies. Despite possibly experiencing bad times ourselves, we quickly forget the experience of praying for five dollars to buy milk and some cereal for the kids. How soon we forget the urgent cry of the poor once our own poverty diminishes. Our ears no longer tickle with their cries and our soul no longer pities those who are in need of a helping hand.
Let us seize with fervor an opportunity to look around our own neighborhoods and see where we can be of assistance? Are there elderly who need their lawns mowed this year? Are there those who need a simple bag of groceries at their door? Leaves raked? Snow plowed? Does anyone need help with a month of their utilities being paid? Does someone just need a ride somewhere? There are many opportunities which do not require a monetary donation to accomplish as well as those that do. Some can produce money to achieve these things and some cannot; but we can all do something and we must do something! Our communities are in desperate need for individuals to begin looking outward towards others and to stop looking so much inward to ourselves.
Within the spirit of every man there is a built-in connection to his fellow man. It is evidence impossible to deny, yet easy to ignore if we allow ourselves to. Our spirit man is united to the spirit of every man. All mankind descended from one mother and one father, making us all brothers and sisters – despite our demographics, race, creed and color. When we allow one to suffer, all will eventually suffer. And our spirit will suffer the slow inevitable and eventual reality of demise. With this demise, we will become numb, insensitive and uncaring to that which connects us as humanity – our need for one another. For us to assume that the Creator of the universe created only enough for some is insanity. The earth has enough on it and in it to sustain all of God’s creation forever. We harangue corporations for hoarding and not sharing and giving, but we ourselves are likewise guilty when we see the need, have the means to address it; yet, we ignore it. Similarly, as we witness corporations whose bottom line is the acquisition of wealth for self gratification ultimately fail and die, so too will our spirit man die if we neglect the basic instinct we all possess – to help others from what resources we do possess.
We were created for a purpose. Many cannot do what a Warren Buffet or Bill Gates can do; but all can do what they are capable of doing, if only our hands would open and not stay closed. Give and it shall be given – good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into YOUR bosom. That’s the promise to those who give to others. Giving to others also produces a quality of peace and gratification within us, nurturing and gratifying our spirit with what it truly desires: caring for someone other than ourselves.
As we go through the rest of this year, let us be determined to open our hands to the helping of others and not close them with the greediness of self advancement to the detriment of those within our communities. Closed hands – closed heart. Open hands – open heart. Let your hands be helping hands and you will reap the rewards of inner joy, inner rest, and inner peace.
by Rev. Bruce Norris