Learning to Share Burdens

I was having a hard Sunday, one of many that I’ve had in the past few months. I sat on the bench at church with only half of my family. Patch had whispered to me that he didn’t feel well and lay his head down in my lap. He fell asleep curled up like the much younger child he used to be, but isn’t anymore. I sat with him, letting him sleep through that meeting and the next. I only woke him for the third hour, since the chapel gets used by priesthood during that time and I needed to be in relief society. I walked down the hall and a friend chanced to be next to me. Or maybe she walked next to me on purpose because I could tell she’d noticed I was having a hard day. We entered the relief society room, and I reached out to touch her and say “will you sit with me?”
“Of course” was the immediate answer. I don’t know why I asked. Usually I’m quite happy to sit by myself in my own little observer space. I guess I didn’t want to be alone with my thoughts anymore. I was tired of my thoughts. They’d been circling in my head through two hours and my efforts to quell them were only temporarily effective. My friend sat next to me and she told me about her life, her kids, the things that are making her stressed. I kept asking questions to draw her out, wanting to hear someone else’s story for a while. Sometimes it seems like we have to do big things to help others. My friend helped me just by sitting next to me and being herself. I could feel her sympathy even though we didn’t talk about my things very much. I went home feeling better.

On a different Sunday, one that was less hard, but still not easy, there was a lesson about taking the yoke of Christ upon us. We had the usual description of what a yoke is (a piece of wood shaped to allow two animals to share a load), etymology of the word yoke (from Proto Indo European meaning “to unite”), and reading of scriptures relating to yokes (Matt 11:20-9-30 “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.) As I listened I turned over in my head my usual response to this passage of scripture, how I like that the word “light” can be read to mean the opposite of heavy, but also to mean the opposite of dark. One word, multiple interpretations. The lesson did not really go that direction, instead of discussing how we yoke ourselves to Christ and pull with him, we talked about how we as members were yoked together to carry all the things. The point being if we redistribute the load, the work becomes easier.

I’ve been thinking about that yoke lesson a lot. Particularly at moments like the one where I asked my friend to sit with me. Or when I’m walking into a pharmacy to pick up an embarrassing number of prescriptions and I meet a friend, whom I haven’t seen in years, and who is also picking up mental health related prescriptions. So then we sit and talk. We decide to get together for lunch and talk more. I think about it when I’m driving toward home and I see the mother of my child’s friend in her yard, so I stop to talk to her about our children and I realize here is yet another person who can understand my current load. Not only that, but she promises to send her kid to hang out with my kid so neither of them will spend so much time alone. In only a brief conversation, burdens are shifted, shared, made lighter.

It was less than two weeks ago when I felt terribly alone with my pile of troubles. I prayed in that hour and I was heard. Since then I have been shown that the people I need are already in my life. The support network was already in place before I was able to admit I needed one. All I had to do was open my eyes and be willing to share my struggles.