Imagine a man walking down a dirt road. On his shoulders he carries two, obviously heavy, burlap sacks. His gait is slow, and you can see him wince with each step. Every few yards he has to jostle one or both of the sacks back into place on his shoulders to keep from dropping them. Yet, he trudges on. Another man approaches the first and walks alongside him. You can hear their conversation as the unladen man asks what is in the sacks.
The weary man replies, “Oh, just some stuff I have to carry. Nothing you should be overly concerned about.”
“They look quite heavy, I hope you don’t have to travel too awfully far with them,” says the second man. “I can only imagine what you’ve got in them.”
The first man pauses a moment, takes a few more steps, then speaks, “I’m ashamed of what I carry, sir. These sacks contain the last of a poor harvest. Much of my crop went to waste this year, because I spent much of the season too drunk to work my land. I’ve let my wife do much of the work, and my children have been ridiculed because of their father’s mistakes. I’ve promised my wife I’ll change my ways more times than I can count, but I always end up breaking my promises. Today marks a week I’ve been sober, and if I can get these sacks to the market before it closes today, I may be able to earn enough to buy my kids the supplies they need to start back to school without the sideways looks from other kids. I’m quite sure my wife has given up on me, but my kids somehow still look up to me.”
The second man shakes his head, and quickly sets about responding to the plight of the first man. “I’m sure you’re wife hasn’t given up on you for good. You just need to earn her trust back. We all make mistakes, but that doesn’t make us bad people, overall. Just keep heading down the path you’ve been on this past week, taking it one step…one day at a time. You’ll get there, and I wish you the best of luck on getting to the market in time.”
And, with that, the second man picks up his pace and soon leaves the burdened man far behind. The burden has been shared audibly by the first man, and it’s even been heard by the second. However, I think we can all agree that the burden has certainly not been borne in partnership by the two men. The mentality we want to instill is one of action, not one of passivity. Passivity in men pervades our culture. While it feels good to listen to another man’s problems, it doesn’t do much for the man with the problems.
We don’t want to insinuate that you should take on all of your friend’s problems (e.g. they over-borrowed for a car, and you pay off their car note). We do want to encourage men taking an active role in supporting their friend. In the story told above, the initially unburdened man could have taken an active role by offering to carry one of the sacks while talking to the burdened man about what he was carrying. That’s all well and good, but Mannerd isn’t about achieving minimal goals. We’re here to go beyond what “gets us off the hook.” Imagine the unburdened man took on one of the sacks, learned about what was going on in the burdened man’s life, and then jumped in the trenches of life with him. He could offer to have the man and his wife over to join he and his family for dinner, allowing them to enjoy an effortless evening of fellowship and conversation. He could labor in the fields with the burdened man to help him prepare his fields for the next season.
Without inconvenience and sacrifice, it’s difficult to claim we are truly invested in our friends. What are some ways that you can go beyond the minimum, and SACK UP to help your burdened friends?