I’ve heard a lot of people say that, and I’ve said it too. I hate to have my noise, my mess, and my problems poke into other people’s lives. It’s often embarrassing and certainly not the kind of image I want to project to the world, to you, to anyone.
I remember years ago when I was studying for a brief time at Notre Dame. Each student had his or her own breadbox-sized cubicle room in the library. It was a nice, miniscule, closed-off study room. One night I was in mine studying. I had headphones on and was singing along to some song as a way of trying to stay awake.
After a while I took the headphones off and left my room to fetch a book. There was an attractive girl sitting at a table across from my door. She said to me, “You’ve got a nice voice (which is not true), but would you mind not singing. I’m studying.”
I had become a burden and for some odd reason I still feel my cheeks go a little red when I think about it years later. I don’t want to be a burden. I just hate my stuff imposing on other people. You probably do to.
I remember one of my first airline flights with Reese. Baby Reese had just started talking in her own language. All the time. Loudly. I guess Reese still talks loudly and without end, but she uses English, at least more often than not, so it’s different.
Anyway, we’re on the plane. Reese is talking and crying and snoring and smiling and wiggling, and I’m mortified. My baby is all in other people’s business – for hours with nowhere to flee. And I hate to be a burden.
But instead of nervous indigestion I received a blessing.
Now, to be honest, I must say that as we were boarding the plane I heard a woman say to her husband, “This’ll be a long one.”
But, for the most part people were wonderful.
On one leg of the flight our seatmate was, in some obvious coming attraction of Hell, caught between two babies. This woman was kind to us even after I spilled onto her the water I was trying to keep from Reese. On another leg a woman was handled us with joy even when Reese started to, shall we say, cough from the bottom end.
I still don’t want to be an undue burden on others even if my burden to impose is this wonderful creature I call my daughter. However, the fact of the matter is that we are burdens to each other. All of us are. Without exception. Every day.
None of us came into the world on our own, and we can’t live without depending on others no matter our age and skills. We live in a web of interdependence that includes the world itself. And our planet is situated in an inter-impacting, almost fathomless universe God shaped mysteriously into being and called “good.”
In Matthew Jesus talks of us coming to him with our burdens and receiving rest and a share in his burden, which he promises is light. The Apostle Paul speaks of us being interconnected in a great body with Christ as the head. Paul says that when one suffers all suffer, and when one is caught up into joy, all the others bask in it as well.
Indeed, in Christian thought the identity of the one, true God is an interdependent community – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit leaning into each other totally. This is love, and the God who spun the galaxies is love, says the first letter of John.
We need each other, and we need to be kind to one another when one person’s burdens butt into another person’s life. Often we try to deny this is the reality of the situation until we get into such a mess that we can’t fake complete independence any more.
How liberating it would be if we saw sharing our burdens as a calling from God that we didn’t need to elude or hide from behind a pile of money. How sweet it would be if instead of hiding our burdens we trained one another in how to give them over to the Lord together? It would be beautiful and raw and real.
And it would be the kind of witness the world is crying out for. In a way, it is the kind of witness I received on the plane years ago with Baby Reese in tow, and I remember it still.