Carrying Burdens

By Debbonnaire Kovacs

Susannah May Farmer frowned as she picked her way down the street. “It’s April!” she grumbled. “April! You know, daffodils, singing birds, blue skies, breezes . . . rain, maybe. Not ice storms!” She slipped as she rounded the corner onto Main Street, and grabbed a telephone pole to keep from falling. Only a few more feet to “Lilies of the Field.” At least there, they had flowers!

A flash of red caught Susannah’s attention and she turned her head. A tiny, old woman no larger than Susannah was stepping down from the curb to cross the street. Her right hand gripped a cane, and her left clung to the handles of a blue plastic shopping bag. It was the bright red scarf around her head that had caught Susannah’s eye. The cane and the two shabby plastic boots slid a little in the slushy gutter, and Susannah ran forward.

“Ma’am, may I help you?”

The woman looked up, and Susannah saw that the cold wind had made her cheeks nearly as red as her scarf.

“Why, thank you, dear! If you could just get the bag, I think I could manage.”

“Suppose I take the bag and give you my arm too?” Susannah suggested. She took the surprisingly heavy bag and gripped the woman’s arm securely. No traffic was coming, so they made their way carefully across the street.

“Thank you, dear!” the woman said again, holding out her hand for the shopping bag.

“But—where are you going?” Susannah asked.

“To the apartments on Walnut. Only a little farther,” the woman replied.

“Only three blocks! May I carry your bag the rest of the way?” Susannah offered.

“Oh, but dear, you know . . . you’re so kind, but . . . I can’t afford to pay you!” the woman stammered.

“Pay me! But how would it be kindness if you paid me?” Susannah asked merrily.

“Well, you sweet thing!” The woman smiled.

Susannah saw that the woman had dimples when she smiled.

She learned a lot more as they moved slowly down the sidewalk, because her new friend chatted the whole way. Susannah could only nod and smile when she passed Kenya and her dad going home from the store where Mr. Washington worked.

“Who was that?” Mr. Washington asked Kenya after Susannah and the woman had passed.

“I don’t know.” Kenya looked back over her shoulder. “I wonder if Susannah knows her, or if she is just carrying the woman’s burdens.”

“Carrying her burdens?” Mr. Washington looked puzzled.

“Yes. It’s our Sabbath School lesson this week.” Kenya explained.

Your Sabbath School lesson? You’re really starting to feel a part of Pattersons’ church, aren’t you?” Mr. Washington looked at his daughter.

“Yeah, Dad, it’s great! Anyway, Simon of Cyrene carried Jesus’ cross, and Ms. Kimoto says carrying each other’s burdens is one way to share God’s love.”

“That’s true,” Mr. Washington said thoughtfully. “You’re a good burden-bearer, yourself.”

I am? I was just thinking I never do it!”

Mr. Washington put his arm around Kenya’s shoulders. “When you walk me home from work every day, you’d be surprised how much that helps me. Today, for instance, was not a very good day. Two people didn’t come to work, several others were irritable and took it out on everyone else, and a woman was caught shoplifting. Three customers complained to the manager, and that would be your dear, old dad!”

Kenya hugged him. “That’s awful! But you didn’t even tell me you had a bad day!”

“That’s because when I see your cheery face,” Mr. Washington waved his hand, “poof! All my burdens just float away and I forget I ever had them!”

Kenya giggled. “Just because you see me?”

“Yep. No matter how anybody else treats me, I know you’re always glad to see me. Then I can go home all cheered up.”

“Wow! I didn’t know you could carry burdens without even knowing it! Look—here’s ‘Lilies of the Field.’ Let’s go in.” Kenya suggested

“Just for a minute. Mom’s expecting us, you know.” Mr. Washington said.

Kenya bounced suddenly. “Let’s buy her flowers!”

“Great idea! You got any money?” Mr. Washington joked.

“Oh, Dad!”

“Kidding, kidding! Come on, you can pick them out. Anything under a quarter!”

They were both laughing as they pushed open the door, making the bells tinkle.

“Hi, Mike! Hey, Solly, what are you doing here?”

“I’m helping Mike. Aunt Rose had to take a whole van load of flowers and decorate a church for a wedding. Mr. Patterson is visiting a small farm that produces wildflowers. So we’re minding the store,” Solly explained.

“Great! Then you can sell my poor, broke dad some roses for a quarter!” Kenya laughed.

“No problem! I have just the thing for you.” Mike disappeared into the back room. He reappeared a moment later with some very dead roses, one drooping limply from a broken stem. “Here you are, sir! Would you like a gift card with these?”

The group erupted with laughter and almost didn’t hear the phone ring.

“Shh! Be quiet!” Mike cleared his throat and tried to compose himself. “Lilies of the Field, may I help you?” The others were still stifling laughs, so he plugged his other ear. “Daisies? Sure . . . Maybe some greenery with them? We have some nice ivy . . . Yes . . . Oh, not right now, I’m afraid. Our delivery van is out. . . . The whole afternoon. I’m very sorry.”

Solly shook Mike’s shoulder.

“Could you hold a moment, sir?” Mike covered the mouthpiece with his hand. “What?”

“How far? I could deliver it,” Solly suggested.

“Clear over in Hartville,” Mike answered

“Oh. Well, I have my bike,” Solly said doubtfully.

“I’ll go get my car,” Mr. Washington announced.

Mike looked relieved. “You will? It’s his wife’s birthday, and this man forgot to order early—”

Mr. Washington threw up his hands. “Say no more! I’ll be right back!”

All the kids looked at Mr. Washington.

“Well, I don’t want to be the only one around here who’s not carrying someone’s burden. Besides, this poor guy is a fellow man in distress! Come on, Kenya, choose Mom’s flowers quickly, and let’s go get the car!”

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