The other day I went for a walk. While walking, I noticed a line of ants crossing the sidewalk in front of me. I stopped to watch.
There were hundreds of them. All in a single line walking from one side of the sidewalk to the other. I don’t know where they were going or where they started, but they seemed to be walking with a purpose.
As I was watching, I noticed one ant carrying a leaf. And then I noticed another. And then another.
The ants carrying the leaves were walking the same direction, and seemed to be keeping up, but the longer I watched, the more I noticed they were walking a little slower than the others.
I don’t know much about ants and I have no idea how they decided which ants have to carry leaves and which got to walk unencumbered.
All I noticed was that some ants were walking peacefully while others were carrying a heavy burden.
And it reminded me a little bit about life.
Sometimes we walk peacefully. But other times, life requires heavy lifting.
There are some seasons in life where the path is easy and the burdens are light. Health is good, money is in the bank, relationships are healthy, and our habits are serving us.
But there are other seasons where the burden is heavy. Our kids are making unwise choices, employment is hard to find, our physical body is failing, our closest relationships are turning against us, bad news continues to mount with no end in sight.
We look around and everyone else seems to be fine, unencumbered, enjoying their path through life, celebrating successes. But we’re stuck carrying this heavy leaf. We’re trying our hardest to keep up, but the burden of this season is heavy, and we feel like we’re falling behind.
Meanwhile, nobody seems to notice.
I wish I had the words to take it all away for you. But I do not. There are helpful steps to take certainly: talk to someone who has experienced what you are experiencing, rely on others, accept help when offered, remove competing distractions, remember that seasons change, and turn to your faith are such examples. But those words only do so much good.
Instead, I’d like to challenge everyone else—those of you rushing swiftly, from one point to another unburdened, without a leaf.
Take time to notice those with heavy burdens.
There is a temptation when our burden is light to not notice the heavy lifting being done by others. Or to assume that we have somehow accomplished something impressive on our own. But many times, those with the heaviest burdens are the ones serving society the greatest.
As the old adage goes, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Today, and even more as we enter the holiday season, look closer at your fellow travelers. And let’s be quick to offer a kind word, a helping hand, or a meaningful gift. Some have been carrying that leaf quite a distance.